Delhi girl Aditi Chauhan recently attained stardom when she became the first Indian woman to play professional football in the United Kingdom after signing for the West Ham United Ladies Football Club. Aditi, who has represented India at both the senior and the Under-19 level, expects India to take more initiatives in improving the standards of women’s football in India. In an interview, she speaks of her new journey in professional football:

How do you feel to be part of your first professional football club in England?
I am really happy to have got this opportunity. I am looking forward to my season with West Ham United Football Club and I also hope to improve as a player and goalkeeper by playing at a high standard league and with better players.

Your debut game did not go well after your team suffered 5-0 loss to Coventry Ladies. First day nerves?
I think personally I did not have a very bad game because I spoke to my manager and goalkeeper coach after the game, as I was very disappointed with the result. But they encouraged me and said that as a team we did not play well. We have a new manager for this season so he has a different strategy, which did not work, but hopefully we will do better from the next game and get better results.

How did the training at the university shape your initial career in England?
I was really happy to be able to play for Loughborough University. It is one of the top sporting universities in the United Kingdom. At the end of the season I even got the 'Manager's Player Award' as an appreciation of my performance during the season. It definitely helped me to improve as a player, which helped me during my trials at the Millwall Ladies Football Club as well as West Ham United Ladies.

It is early days for you at West Ham United. How well are you settling in?
The manager and the whole team have been very welcoming. The media officer has been very helpful in spreading the news and managing the reactions on social media. So overall I've had a really good experience. I really enjoy the goalkeeping sessions with our goalkeeper coach. He makes me work really hard in the training.

Any different training regime at West Ham United?
We train twice a week and have matches on Sundays, so it's not very different from what I had at  the Loughborough University. But the goalkeeping sessions are definitely better here.

Having played for the Indian national women's football team, what has been the most memorable moment till now?
Playing for India is always special, but so was being selected for the Asian Games last year, in which the Indian women’s team participated almost after a gap of 16-17 years. Another special moment for me was, when I was a part of the national team which won the South Asian Football Federation Championship in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Football is gradually picking up pace in India. However, it is still centred men's football? What are your views?
It is sad that even though the Indian women’s football team is ranked better in the world ranking compared to men's football team, there is still no sign of starting a domestic league in India to give young girls and women footballers something to look forward to. We do not have regular matches throughout the year – how do you expect women's football to develop? It just makes me sad that the All India Football Federation has still not made any progress on the promise they made last year about starting a league for women in India.

What difference do you see between women's football in England and women's football in India?
There is a lot of difference in the standard of football played by girls here. I am doing my dissertation on women's football in England for my Masters degree and during my research I have come across a lot of facts about Football Association of England investment and involvement in promoting women’s football in England. The new semi-professional league was started, clear player development path was put in order, state of the art facilities were made available to all women’s squads representing the country, and as a result of all this, they were the second runners up at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada earlier this year.

You left India for studies. Are you open to making a return to the Indian side?
I would love to come back to India and represent India if the team needs me.

Nowadays, sportswomen in India are being idolised for their contributions in their respective sport. Do you think your successes will help make women’s football popular in India?
I really hope my achievements can help in the development of women’s football in India. That was actually one of the reasons why I came to England to do my Masters degree in Sports Management.

Which country were you supporting in the recently-concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup?
I was really excited to see Costa Rica during the World Cup, especially after learning about the conditions in which the players used to train for the World Cup. It was very inspiring.

Your favourite player?
German men’s football team shot-stopper, Manuel Neuer.

What was your motivation to play football and become a goalkeeper?
I just love football, I enjoy playing the game and when I realised that I am good at goalkeeping it motivated me further.

With a Masters in Sports Management, do you at some point want to drift away from the field towards the boardroom?
I wanted to stay connected to sports even after I stop playing football in future, so yes I intend to stay involved in the sports industry.