How Ashalata Devi rebounded from her knee injury
When Loitongbam Ashalata Devi injured her knee in 2016, she feared it would end her career. The current captain of the Indian football team remembers feeling very weak at the time; she suspects she might have been depressed about it. She worked away from home in Bihar and had no one to confide in. Rehabilitation was not going well, she had to go to the office and the worry about her career was overwhelming.
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Ashalata traveled to Bengaluru for rehab with Dipali Pandey, the Indian Football Association (AIFF) physiotherapist. Ashalata confided in her, crying as she recounted her worst fears. Pandey suggested a sports psychologist because Ashalata, unlike other players, had lost weight on her break instead of putting it on and was not eating or sleeping well.
âMy weight has dropped from 4 to 5 kilos. So for two weeks I went to see a sports psychologist, âexplains the footballer who is currently in Kochi, where the Indian team are currently camping before their next AFC Asian Cup in January. âIf I started to cry, I would cry all night. I hadn’t told my family that I couldn’t play for nine months because of an injury. I didn’t have anyone to share with, âAshalata says, remembering the diary her psychologist gave her to record her feelings. âIt got better after 2-3 months,â she says.
Since then, Ashalata has regained the mental and physical strength to return to the Indian team.
The Asian Cup, which takes place on January 20 in Mumbai and Pune, follows the Indian team’s visit to South America, where they faced Brazil, Chile and Venezuela in a four-way tournament. nations. India lost all three matches. The tour was a mixture of excitement and anxiety for Ashalata, playing against accomplished teams. While she was delighted to play against veteran Brazilian Formiga, she felt nervous two days before the game. However, team coach Thomas Lennart Dennerby said it was a good sign as it will help him focus on the game.
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âMy belief is that being nervous is not a problem. When I’m nervous I try to concentrate more. I am a leader. I cannot show any player that I am weak or that the game is affecting me. The stronger I look, the harder I play, âsaid the 28-year-old defender. She says the most important decision she has to make as a center-back is the timing of her tackle. âFootball is a physical game. I cannot back down; that cannot happen. Decision making is the most important. It’s not that I have to be calm all the time, aggression and anger are important.
Plus, she says she knows how to control her emotions. âThe stronger I am mentally, the more I can control it. On the pitch, I shout at the players; I even get angry. But I curse myself the most when I play badly. I sit in the toilet; I curse myself and cry. Then when I shower, I’m done. I don’t think about it anymore.
The team regularly meditates after the gym or works out for about 10 to 15 minutes. Training is generally high intensity, so players use meditative practice to calm themselves down. Her other distractions are Korean dramas online, she laughs, and shopping, which has also moved online in these days of bio-bubbles.
The most difficult aspect of being an international sportsman, says Ashalata, is dealing with the different types of opponents they face. Since April, the Indian team has played against Belarus, UAE, Tunisia, Bahrain and Chinese Taipei ahead of the South American tour. In Sweden the weather was cold while the UAE was warm. For example, Swedish football had a different intensity and style than Brazil.
The 2019 AIFF Player of the Year remembers her best (and most important) moment: making the second round of the Olympic qualifiers for the first time in 2018. By then, her worst was already behind her , knee injury.
“Everyone has said that no player has ever returned to football after a knee injury,” she said. âIt was the most difficult and difficult period of my career. I felt like I would no longer play for the national team, nor hear or sing the anthem on a pitch.