The Weekend Leader - 'Want India to surprise the world at FIFA U-17 women's WC'

'Want India to surprise the world at FIFA U-17 women's WC'



 Former Nigerian World Cupper and current India U-17 women's team goalkeeping coach Precious Dede has said that her side would look to "surprise" the world when they play in the FIFA World Cup.

"The girls know what I've done and they look up to me a lot," Dede told "I can see them paying really close attention when I work with them, and it helps that I can still step on the pitch and show them how certain things should be done.

"The other day, one of the girls came up to me and asked, 'Mum - they call me that - can I ever be like you?' And I told her, 'No, you won't be like me - you will be better than me. That is why I am here: to get you to that level.'

"Even when I was still playing, I knew that I wanted to become a coach. And not just a coach - a goalkeeping coach. I get a lot of joy from seeing good goalkeeping, and from seeing young keepers develop."

The 40-year-old revealed that a lot of people questioned her when she opted to embrace a daunting challenge in an unfamiliar culture. "Lots of people asked me, 'Why are you going to India? It's not a football country.' But I told them that I was coming here to prove a point because with this U-17 World Cup we are working towards a goal. And we want to surprise the world.

"It's not all been easy, of course, because it's a new environment for me and the culture and food are very different. But the Indian people are so warm and receptive, and the players - because they have the right attitude and willingness to learn - are developing very fast. Each one of them is a work in progress but it's clear the talent is there."

The job has also presented an opportunity to reconnect with a coach for whom she has the utmost respect.

"It was a very nice surprise to get the call from Thomas (Dennerby) asking me to do this job," she explained. "The fact he picked me is a big compliment and it makes me very happy because to me, he is not just a coach or a boss or a mentor. He's like a father. I have learnt so much from him on and off the field."

The appointments of Dennerby and Dede - two heavyweights of the women's game - reflect India's ambitions for this U-17 World Cup, and for football's wider development.

For Dede, witnessing the vast potential of India and the strides being made across the world, the future seems extremely bright.

"Women's football is developing very fast, and it's great to see," she said. "When I came through, it was very, very tough for a girl to start playing the game. There were so many barriers, particularly in certain parts of the world."

Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Kolkata and Navi Mumbai will be the five host cities for the tournament where 16 teams will compete across 32 matches to lift the trophy on November 21- IANS

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