Shillong, Jan 26: Oinam Bembem Devi became the first Indian woman footballer, and the seventh overall, to be named a Padma Shri on Saturday. The awards will be formally conferred by the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhawan in March/April.

In a press release today from the All India Football Federation, AIFF President Praful Patel congratulated Bembem, saying, “Congratulations! None deserve it more than Bembem Devi. She has been a role model for Indian football and won so many laurels for India over the years. I hope more girls draw inspiration from her and take Indian women’s football to greater heights.”

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das, meanwhile, called her a “living legend” and “flagbearer of Indian women’s football”.

Bembem made her debut in Indian colours at the age of 15 in 1995 and carried on playing professionally until 2016. She became the team captain in 2003 and won three SAF Cup titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 as well as two South Asian Games gold medals in 2010 and 2016, the last being in Shillong.

The two-time AIFF Women’s Player of the Year also coached Eastern Sporting Union to a runners-up place in the Indian Women’s League in 2018, which was also held in Shillong.

Bembem joins the elite club of Gostho Paul, Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee, Bhaichung Bhutia and current Indian men’s national team captain Sunil Chhetri as Indian footballers who have won the prestigious Padma Shri.

(All India Football Federation photo)

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