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Difficult days in the past, Sandhiya chasing European dreams

BENGALURU : From  losing her father at an early age to living in an orphanage and meeting her mother only once a month, Sandhiya Ranganathan has had a difficult life. But football has added meaning to her life. The beautiful game has helped the In­dia midfielder, who took up the sport in school, cope with her tough journey.After playing for India in the age-group competitions, she made her debut for the senior national team in the 2018 COTIF Cup in Spain. It was a life-changing experience for Sandhiya. The standard of football, the quality of living and facilities that she witnessed there had struck her.

“It was an amazing experience when I made it to the team. I had to make my passport as before that, I never thought of going abroad nor did I have money to make it. Then when I saw the lifestyle and standard of football in Spain, it was outstanding,” said the Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu) girl. “It wasn’t easy after getting into the senior team from the 30-member squad. I could hardly communicate with other players as the language barrier was a big issue. But all the senior players and Indumathi (Kathiresan) didi helped me.”

Now, at 22, Sandhiya is one of India’s most promising players. She has been a prolific scorer for both the national team and her club Sethu FC. She was the only scorer for India in the 1-1 draw against a higher-ranked Uzbekistan in a friendly. She also bagged a brace in the South Asian Games against Sri Lanka. In the ongoing Indian Women’s League, she is the leading scorer among Indians with nine goals in four matches and second in the top scorers’ list behind Nepal’s Sabitra Bhandari (14).

“IWL has helped me a lot. I was able to play against some of the best Indian players and improve my game. It also helped the coaches recognise my talent and get the senior national team call-up. I won my first national title with Sethu (last edition of IWL). So, it has been a great experience so far. I want to help my team defend the title this time,” said the Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu) girl.

Now that she has aced the difficulties of her life, Sandhiya wants to improve and follow Ngangom Bala Devi’s footsteps to play in Europe. “The difficult life I had taught me the values and virtues of life. It’s still not easy. I still stay in a hostel but I am now able to enjoy the little successes. I enjoy it when my goals help my team win matches. So, to continue enjoying it, I want to score more goals and feel proud of myself,” she said. “Bala didi’s journey has been an inspiring one. I want to improve my game and also play in some big club one day. That’s my dream now.”  Results: Group A: FC Kolhapur City 2 (Lhingnelam Kipgen 24’, Subhadra Sahu 70’) bt Baroda Football Academy 0. Group B: Kenkre FC 3 (Soumya Guguloth 5’ 18’, Asha Kumari 47’) bt Sreebhumi FC 1 (Aarti 33’).