Ludhiana, May 10: It was around a decade ago when an odd figure could be seen dribbling a football around the fields in the hilly district of Lamjung in Nepal - a lanky girl running circles around a bunch of confused boys with a makeshift football made out of socks glued to her feet.
That lanky girl, who all now know, as Sabitra Bhandari has continued to do the same for the last decade and is now running circles around some of the best defenders in South Asian women’s football at the Hero Indian Women’s football. She is Sethu FC’s foreign recruit.
"The Indian Women’s League is of a high standard. This is not exactly the case when it comes to futsal in Maldives, or in Nepal, where things have just started to develop. When I am playing a Hero IWL match, it feels like I am playing an International match, the organisation is of such a high level," said Bhandari.
Having been a prolific scorer for Nepal in the International circuit, Bhandari has had her fair share of experience playing and scoring against India. Now however, she is playing alongside a number of India internationals like defenders Sweety Devi and Ashalata Devi, forwards Dangmei Grace and Sandhiya, and playmaker Ratanbala Devi.
"Yes, I’ve played against them a lot at the International level, but I think I have improved a bit after training with these girls for a few weeks," smiled Sabitra. "It’s a team game at the end of the day. I am happy to learn from them during every training session and every match."
Once she was in the APF Club setup, it was only a matter of time when Sabitra turned heads and broke into the National team. She got her International debut in the 2014 SAFF Women’s Championship against Bhutan, and Sabitra did not disappoint as she scored on her international debut in an 8-0 win Jinnah Sports Stadium in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Since then, Sabitra has gone on to become one of the most prolific strikers in South Asia. Most recently, she earned the joint top-scorers’ award at the SAFF Women’s Championship, earlier this month at Biratnagar, Nepal. (UNI)