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Gorkha Woman Footballer from Kalimpong Anju Tamang enters Indian team for the 2018 AFC Cup


RAJEEV RAVIDAS
Kalimpong :
Birpara-born and Kalimpong-raised Anju Tamang has made it to the Indian squad for the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers, becoming the first woman footballer from the Darjeeling hills to be selected to the senior national team. Anju will be part of the 23-member team that will seek to qualify for the main championship to be held in Jordan in 2018. India is placed in Group B, along with South Korea, Uzbekistan, North Korea and Hong Kong. Only one team from the group will qualify for the championship.

In the qualifier, India's first match will be against North Korea in that country on April 3. Talking to The Telegraph from Goa, an elated Anju said it had always been her dream to represent the country at the senior level and she was looking forward to performing well in the qualifiers if she made it to the playing eleven. Anju is among the four forwards in the team, which is coached by Sajid Dar. "We had a month-long training camp in Goa. Yesterday, Sajid Sir announced 23 names for the qualifiers. I am really overjoyed," she said.

Anju had failed to make the cut for the SAFF women's championship held in Siliguri in December-January which India had won. However, her performance in the inaugural edition of the Indian Women's League in January and February earned her a call for the Goa training camp. "Our team, Rising Student's Club, Odisha, finished as a runner-up in the IWL. I had performed reasonably well in the tournament. I was then called for the Goa camp," she said.

The 22-year-old Anju was born in Birpara in the Dooars, but grew up in Algarah, about 15km from here. It was in Algarah that she took to football at a very young age. "I started playing football when I was in Class VI. I used to play mostly with boys since very few girls were interested in football. Even after I shifted to Kalimpong, I continued to play and practise with boys," she said.

After matriculating from Algarah Higher Secondary School, Anju completed her higher secondary from Scottish Universities Mission Institution (SUMI) in Kalimpong.Anju said her coaches, both in schools and clubs, had been of immense help in her development as a footballer.

"Prashant Sir, Bhim Sir in Algarah and Pemba Sir in Sikkim have all been of great help. I have also had to make some sacrifices to reach here. For instance, I will not be able to sit for my final graduation examinations this year because of the AFC championship. It will always be football first for now," she said.

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