Oinam Bembem Devi, the flag bearer of Indian women’s football for over the past two decades was named the winner of the prestigious Arjuna Award. Bembem becomes the second Indian woman footballer to win the award, the first being Shanti Mullick in 1983. Bembem made her international debut in 1995 and bowed out on a high after winning the SAF Games Gold Medal in Shillong in February 2015. She has hence been closely associated with All India Football Federation (AIFF) for spreading awareness about women’s football in India and is actively involved as a scout and Brand Ambassador for FIFA Live Your Goals, India.
“This is an Award for Indian women’s football,” she stated. “I hope this award will help remove the mental block and inspire all girls in the society to take up the sport,”. It gives me immense satisfaction to see my name in the same list as the greatest Indian sports persons across all fields. My sacrifice over the past two decades has not gone waste. “I need to thank all teammates, my coaches, AIFF and the entire football fraternity along with my family for their support.All India Football Federation president Prayerful Patel congratulated Bembem on her achievement. Bembem has been an inspiration to all women in the country. Her contribution to Indian women’s football has been exceptional. She deserves the award.
Women’s head coach Maymol Rocky couldn’t hide her delight over the phone.”No one deserves the Arjuna Award more than Bembem. She has done so much for Indian football both on and off the field. Bembem is the 25th Footballer to have won the Arjuna Award, the last being Subrata Paul in 2016. In addition, she was also awarded the AIFF Woman Footballer Award twice, in 2001 and 2013.