NEW DELHI, 22nd August 2017: Bembem Devi went “speechless” for some moment when she got the news that she has been conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award. As “tears of joy” rolled down her cheeks, she spoke at length about her feelings, her dream, the sociological obstacles and much more. “I dedicate this Award to every Woman in the Country,” she said. EXCERPTS:

We understand you are crying.
These are tears of joy. This is a very special moment for me, a very special feeling. I cannot explain it in words. I am speechless and my heart is throbbing very fast.

Did you always pursue this dream?

It is the one of the highest recognition for any sportsperson in India. Right from childhood I have heard about the Arjuna Award. No sportsperson ever plays for any recognition but at times, it can be so satisfying. My sacrifice over the past two decades has not gone waste.

Who do you dedicate this Award to?

I dedicate this to all the women in the country who overcome hurdles every day in the sociological context to excel in their respective fields. This Award is for all of them as much it is for my mom, all my teammates and coaches. I also need to thank AIFF for the continuous support.

You did take back your retirement once.

After my initial retirement, I was floored when AIFF called me up and requested me to take back my retirement. ‘You deserve a better farewell,’ I was told. I wasn’t sure, but they insisted. It eventually came when we won the SAF Games Gold medal before a packed house in Shillong. I am not sure if this has ever happened in Indian Football ever. Thank you AIFF for giving me the honour.

How much will this help to enhance Women’s Football?

As I said, there are sociological obstacles in India which sometimes disallow girls to play Football. I feel my Award will encourage parents to send the girl child to play Football as now they understand that you can win an Arjuna Award by playing Women’s Football in India.

What is your message to the girls in the Country?

Follow your dream and always believe in yourself. There is no alternate to hard work. Aim for the sky and you will achieve it.

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