Indian women's national team coach Maymol Rocky has claimed that 2019 has been the golden year for women's football in India.
"I think we played more than 40 international matches, traveled to more than 20 countries which was never done before and the girls were very lucky to be in this plan. We had the best year in 2019, for me what I would term as the golden year in women's football," Rocky told AIFF in an Instagram chat.
Not only was the year a landmark for Indian women, there was recognition for the women's game on the global scale as well. The 2019 Women's World Cup attracted a lot of attention with USA forward Megan Rapinoe stealing the show, winning the Golden Ball and helping her team win the World Cup.
Maymol, who travelled to watch the tournament in France, recalls meeting Rapinoe and calls her as an ideal athlete whom every player needs to learn from.
"I remember watching a match between Australia and Brazil and the atmosphere was fabulous. I was thinking that we are far behind but we are not very far behind. I'm sure that we can make it. When I was playing, I would never dream of making it to the World Cup but now we can believe.
"I had a very small chat with her (Rapinoe). I wished her congratulations for winning the World Cup. She said 'thank you' and the first thing she asked me was 'where are you from?'. And she was like 'nice meeting you'. The personality that she has, every player needs to carry that and work like her also. She (Rapinoe) has really worked very hard to get where she is," she explained.
The best result for the India women's team in the Women's Asian Cup was a runners-up finish in 1979 and 1983. They also finished third in 1981. However, this achievement came under the aegis of the Women's Football Federation of India (WFFI) that was categorised under the Asian Ladies' Football Confederation (ALFC) with no affiliation to FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Fast forward, as the affairs were eventually taken over by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) from the early 2000s, the women's national team failed to make it past the group stage on five consecutive times between 1995 and 2003. However, they are set to make their ninth appearance in the competition as India are set to host the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup.
The country is also set to host the U-17 Women's World Cup in February 2021.
"As a senior team head coach, I am really looking forward to this (U-17 Women's World Cup) because we are preparing for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup. I will definitely get a few players from the U-17 team," Maymol explained.
"When the base becomes bigger for the senior team, scouting can be expanded and you have more players in the pool to choose from in different positions."
With regard to the 2022 Women's Asian Cup that also serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, she added, "This is the top-most tournament the girls will be playing in recent times. The tournament happening in India itself gives us goosebumps.
"We don't want to play against countries who we can defeat. Now we want to play against countries who we have to compete hard to defeat. So the plan is already in process. We are going to play the qualifiers as well and I can just say that everybody needs to back us up. The girls will give it all."