Updated on 11 Nov 2021, 4:40 am
Oinam Bembem Devi also popularly known as the "Durga of Indian Football" on Tuesday advised her juniors and the youth players of the country to never give up pursuing their dreams and goals.
Bembem received the prestigious Padma Shri Award from President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremonial function held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the national capital on Monday. She is the first ever Indian woman footballer to be honoured the Padma Shri and the seventh overall to have been awarded the prestigious award.
Born on April 4, 1980 to late Oinam Nageshor Singh and Oinam ongbi Ruhhini Devi of Pishumthong Oinam Leikai in Imphal West, Bembem has had a passion and love for football since her childhood.
"Conferring me with the 4th highest civilian award of India (Padma Shri) is the biggest achievement of my career," said Bembem during a telephone conversation with the Imphal Free Press.
Presenting her with such a prestigious award clearly shows that her dedication and contribution is recognised by the government, she said.
She had been playing for the Indian Women Football Team for 21 years and 26 years for Manipur and has been spreading awareness to uplift the women footballers in the country, she added.
Giving the credit for her various achievements, including the Padma Shri, to her family members, team-mates, coaches and well-wishers, Bembem assured that she will continue to support and uplift the spirit of women footballers.
Expressing her pride in being born in Manipur where there has been gender equality since time immemorial, she said, "I never feel odd. I never get any negative comments. I always get the support of the people of Manipur in pursuing my career in football."
Bembem wished all the youths players of the country a bright future and said, "Never give up. Always stick to hardwork and dedication."
At present, Bembem is serving as an inspector in the Manipur Police department and giving coaching to the Manipur women football team. Though she fully dedicated her life to football, she also completed graduation.
She started playing football at a very young age of around nine/ten years with the local boys. In 1991 she joined Youth Amateur Welfare Association (YAWA) Club of Singjamei in Imphal and started playing as a professional player. Since then she started playing at national and international level.
In 2017, she was conferred with the Arjuna Award by the ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Bembem is presently in New Delhi. She is scheduled to return to her hometown (Imphal) on Wednesday.
B Rakesh Sharma
Staff Reporter, Imphal