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Title:Delhi's Aditi Asian woman footballer of year in England

News Paper

Delhi's very own Aditi Chauhan is making all of England sit up and take notice. Barely three months after becoming the first Indian to feature in the FA Women's Premier League in England when she signed for West Ham Ladies, the 23-year-old goalkeeper bagged the Woman in Football Award at the third Asian Football Awards in London.

She could not have asked for a better present for her birthday, which fell on Friday.

Aditi staved off competition from fellow Indian Tanvie Hans of Fulham FC Ladies, who is unable to play for India since she holds a British passport, Monica Sharma, also from Fulham and London Bari LFC captain Sabah Mahmoud.

An alumnus of Jesus and Mary College and Amity International School, Aditi last represented India in the Asian Games in Incheon last year. She is the first woman footballer from India to receive such a recognition.

"What is happening for the past few months has been surreal," Aditi told TOI from London, "This has to be my best birthday ever till now."

The ceremony was held at Wembley Stadium, still fresh from hosting a friendly match between England and France after the Paris attacks. Delhi girl Aditi Chauhan, who plays for West Ham Ladies in England's FA Women's Premier League, has become the first Indian woman to win the Woman in Football Award at the third Asian Football Awards in London The awards are supported by the English Football Association (FA) and the Asian Football Project to recognise the achievements of British Asians in English football.

Wales and Swansea fullback Neil Taylor, who has an English father and Indian mother, won the Asian Footballer of the year Award while Aston Villa's 17-yearold defender Easah Suliman, who is of Pakistani heritage and captained England Under-17s, won the young player award. Kidderminster Harriers striker Gurjit Singh, 24, is of Indian heritage and won the non-league player gong.

Aditi was the hot favourite to win this award owing to her not having any connection with the United Kingdom before coming here two years ago to study sports management at Loughborough University. Playing for the varsity team was how she got noticed by West Ham goalkeeping coach Julian.

"I had great expectations from tonight and was positive that I might just win it. But when I actually got it, it was like a trance. You cannot dream of such a thing coming from India," Aditi said.

"It feels great now. It's all worth it. Getting this award at Wembley ...it's such a fairytale story for someone coming from a country where there is no league for women. "I have gone through a lot. It was not easy to pursue a career in football. I am thankful to West Ham for their support," she added. Aditi dedicated the award to her family who according to her have backed her against all odds.

So what next? "At the moment I don't want to take a step back. True that I am facing troubles with my visa right now, but I am very positive and won't stop playing football which has given me so much. Probably I'll go to some other country. "It is very unfortunate that AIFF has not paid enough attention to women's football till now. Women's football in most states except Manipur has taken a backseat. The women's team ranks much higher than the men's, and if some efforts are made by the federation we may qualify to play the World Cup in near future," - Subrata Dutta, AIFF vice-president "We never thought she will reach such heights playing a sport which is male dominated. It's just a dream come true for us," - Shivani Chauhan, Aditi's mother.

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