Irons Lady Aditi is making history
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.
“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.
“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.
STEPPING UP: Aditi Chauhan in action on her West Ham debut