Indian football team captain Ashalata Devi feels women footballers are still not being paid enough in the country which is why parents don’t encourage their daughters to take up the sport.

The 27-year-old claimed Indian football clubs treat female players like “vegetables”, who needed to “bargain and demand” in order to earn decent fees, compared to their male counterparts.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to bargain and demand,” Devi was quoted as saying by Outlook.

“It feels that we are vegetables in the market. They would bargain for a small amount. Many of us have faced this kind of situation. Even I sometimes think that if I were a male player, I would have got a handsome salary,” she added.

The Sethu FC centre-back asserted that footballers in the Indian Women’s League, the country’s top division professional football league, still earn meager salaries which makes it difficult for them to look after their families.

“Many players don’t even get Rs 1 lakh in a season. The girls do equal hard work like the male players but where is the reward?” she said.

Devi, who was voted All India Football Federation’s Player of the Year last year, felt that women footballers from India have the talent to go out and play abroad but said lack of financial support, sponsorship were among the few factors holding them back.

Earlier this year, India striker Bala Devi signed an 18-month contract with Scottish giants Rangers FC that made her the first women footballer from India to have a professional contract with an overseas club.

“There are a good number of players in our team who can easily go outside and play,” Devi said.

“But for that thing you need good agents and sponsors. Most of the players don’t have an agent to look after that part. Many women players even have to buy their supplements. Not everyone has a job. And the lockdown has put them in more trouble,” she added.