Irons Lady Aditi is mak­ing history

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Kieran Thievam

WHEN West Ham Ladies lost 5-0 to Coven­try City Ladies on the open­ing week­end of the FA Women’s Premier League South sea­son, it wasn’t the score­line that made the head­lines.

In­stead, it was 22-year-old Aditi Chauhan from Delhi who had news out­lets back in In­dia scram­bling for in­ter­views af­ter the Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity stu­dent made her de­but for the Ham­mers last week.

Chauhan, who is in the process of com­plet­ing her Mas­ters de­gree in Sports Man­age­ment, is the na­tional goal­keeper for In­dia and the first In­dian woman to play here af­ter sign­ing for West Ham fol­low­ing tri­als at Mill­wall Lionesses.

Im­pres­sion

“I moved down to Lon­don af­ter play­ing for my univer­sity and started to get in touch with clubs be­cause I wanted to con­tinue play­ing,” said Chauhan.

“I got in touch with Mill­wall and was given tri­als, but I was told I couldn’t play in the Women’s Su­per League on a stu­dent visa.”

Thank­fully, goal­keeper coach at the Lionesses, Ju­lian Roberts, also works with West Ham Ladies, and he sug­gested that Chauhan try out with the club as they were look­ing for a keeper.

She clearly made a good im­pres­sion, as the Irons of­fered her a con­tract to play for them this sea­son.

The 5-0 loss to the Sky Blues will be a de­but she’ll wish to for­get, and she ad­mit­ted this is a level she will need to ad­just to.

“I’ve not played at this level for a very long time, so for me it was a higher stan­dard and I prob­a­bly wasn’t ready,” she said.

“But since then we’ve learnt a lot as a team and hope­fully we’ll de­velop and per­form bet­ter in our next match.”

It’s a far cry from the football she was play­ing in Delhi, with Chauhan re­veal­ing there was no girls team at her school, which meant hav­ing to play in a park in front of her house with boys.

But it was later that her school bas­ket­ball coach en­cour­aged her to at­tend football tri­als for a Delhi state team be­cause of the at­tributes she pos­sessed.

“There aren’t a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able for girls af­ter school be­cause there is no pro­fes­sional league, which is why a lot of them will drop out of football,” she said.

“I played a lot of sports (Chauhan has a black belt in karate), but the trial went well and I en­joyed play­ing football, so I de­cided to fo­cus on that.”

For any­one who has seen the 2002 hit film ‘Bend it Like Beck­ham’, you’ll know that In­dian fam­ily at­ti­tudes to­wards women play­ing football aren’t al­ways pos­i­tive.

How­ever, the young keeper said she does have the sup­port of her par­ents, and har­bours am­bi­tions of one day em­u­lat­ing her role model, Hope Solo, by play­ing at the high­est level.

“Be­cause women’s football isn’t a nor­mal sport for a girl to take up in In­dia, my par­ents were ap­pre­hen­sive,” Chauhan said.

Pas­sion

“But they saw I was a good foot­baller and have been very sup­port­ive over the years. They’ve en­cour­aged me to come to Eng­land, fol­low my pas­sion, and one day play in the Women’s Su­per League – hope­fully with West Ham.”

For now, Chauhan will be fo­cus­ing on her home de­but next Sun­day, Au­gust 30 as they take on Crys­tal Palace Ladies in the FAWomen’s Premier League Cup at Hornchurch.

PIC­TURE: West Ham Ladies

STEP­PING UP: Aditi Chauhan in ac­tion on her West Ham de­but

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