Seven players from Manipur who had previously withdrawn from the national camp that was held at Cuttack prior to the Gold Cup and Turkish Women’s Cup, had written about the reasons of their decision in a letter to the All India Football Federation. The letter was addressed to the AIFF’s General Secretary Kushal Das.
India had started the year strongly, stringing together five consecutive victories, but fell to defeats against Nepal and Myanmar and did not make it to the final of the Gold Cup in January in Odisha. At the Turkish Women’s Cup, India finished sixth, losing 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out in the fifth/sixth classification play-off to lower-ranked Kazakhstan.
Seven internationals had pulled out of the camp in Cuttack with no official reason given for the withdrawal of these players. The players also did not feature in the 12 international matches played in the months of January and February. The letter, which is yet to receive a response from the AIFF, sheds further light on the discord within the team.
The letter, a copy of which is available with Scroll.in, alleged that the “Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the National Team are not able to bring the team together and in fact play divide and rule policy leading to a stifling situation in the camp and the team.” The head coach of the team is Maymol Rocky and her assistant is Chaoba Devi.
Among these seven players is Bala Devi, who has 36 international goals to her name. The 29-year-old, employed with the Manipur Police was reached out to, but she declined to comment on the matter.
Kamala Devi, who has made 61 international appearances, is also among the seven players and was the AIFF’s Woman Footballer of the Year 2017. Bala Devi, also a two-time player of the year, was the captain when India won their last SAFF Cup in 2016.
Another of the players chose to speak anonymously, fearing non-selection for future national teams. “The problems between us and Chaoba Devi started long ago. Some of us do not play for her team Kryphsa and play for other teams in Manipur. That in turn, led to her singling some players out,” said the player.
Bala Devi also played for Kryphsa under Chaoba Devi in the last edition of the Indian Women’s League, but was on loan from the Manipur Police. In fact, nine Manipuri players had boycotted the camp but two had been sent back to the camp by their guardians.
The majority of the players who boycotted the camp, including Kamala Devi, played for the Eastern Sporting Union team in the last IWL held in Shillong. Bala Devi had finished as the top scorer with 12 goals, but her team Kryphsa had been knocked out in the semis by eventual champions Rising Student on penalties. ESU had finished runners-up, and been the inaugural champions of the IWL.
Another source close to the players had stated the players had approached Rocky regarding Chaoba Devi’s behaviour, but the coach had stuck by her assistant, leading to the mass withdrawal from the camp.
The letter also stated that the Olympic qualifier against Nepal was marred by infighting. India went on to draw that match 1-1, but qualified for the second round.
One of them even used expletives to many of us now and then which are intolerable. Their attitude resulted in lack of camaraderie which was seen in the result against Nepal. Not only are they arrogant challenging the players now and then saying we will not be selected if we do not toe their line. We follow what is instructed in the field as per their plan but they are hell bent on destroying the gamesmanship by openly showing favouritism which was pointed out but it made both of them even more vindictive. Not only in selection of players for the team, even for fielding there is favouritism.— The letter written to the AIFF makes strong allegations.
The second round of the Olympic qualifiers are in April, where India will once again face Nepal and hosts Myanmar, apart from Indonesia.
Scroll has reached out to the AIFF and Kushal Das for a comment, but they haven’t responded yet. This story will be updated as and when a response is received.