Bhubaneswar: Indian women’s team are all set to lock horns with USA in the Olympic Qualifiers at the iconic Kalinga Stadium November 1-2, and local star Lilima Minz is excited to play in front of a home support for the first time donning Indian colours.
“I am very much excited and happy that I got a chance to play in front of my home fans. I have been waiting this for a long time and now finally I have an opportunity to live my dream of playing in front of home supporters,” said Lilima.
“I have always enjoyed looking at the support the men’s team have got here when they played in various tournaments. Hopefully we’ll get the same (support) from the fans as you know Odisha people love the game of hockey. So I’m looking forward to it,” she added.
Speaking of their opposition, Lilima said that they are not taking their opponents lightly even though the visitors are lower ranked (USA are ranked 13th in FIA rankings compared to India’s nine).
“USA is a strong team and we don’t want to be complacent. We have played them before. We are not taking them lightly. However, we are focussing on our game because we have to perform well on the field if we need to win. We’ll do our best in the coming two matches,” said the midfielder.
“We have our plans for them. We have thoroughly watched their videos, their gameplay and style. Hopefully our research and planning come good against them,” replied the 25-year-old when asked about their strategies against USA.
Lilima was also hopeful for some state players who would, sooner or later, don the senior India colours. “Whoever represents India is a star. They represent because they earn it. There are few players like Rashmita Minz, Mariana Kujur, Ajmina Kujur and few more whom you can see represent the senior team some day,” Lilima exuded hopes.
She recently reached a career landmark when she made her 150th appearances for the senior India team. Lilima, who made her international debut in 2011, touched the milestone during India’s clash against Japan in the final of the Olympic test event at Oi Hockey Stadium in Tokyo.
When asked about her feelings and how far she is looking ahead, Lilima said: “I don’t have a limit (considering appearances in national team), but happy for the landmark. At the time of Rio Games I hadn’t even reached 100-match mark.
“Then I sustained an injury. At that time I had some thoughts of whether I would be able to continue or not. However, I made myself strong especially mentally. Then I got back into the side now I played my 150th match. So I don’t know how far I can go but let’s see (she chuckles),” she signed off.