Shilji Shaji sets a high standard for the Indian U-17 Women’s Team

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Shilji Shaji had three matches and eleven goals in her brief time as an Indian Women’s U-17 Team midfielder. She scored four goals in India’s 7-0 and 6-0 friendly triumphs over Jordan in February. She scored three times in the Young Tigresses’ 4-1 triumph against Nepal in the SAFF U-17 Women’s Championship opening on Monday.

Shilji, who is from Kakkayam in Kozhikode, Kerala, turned 16 a week ago. She started playing football at Kallanode School in fifth class. . “My father played football, and he sent me to play as well. Very few girls of my age used to play football. So I mostly played with senior girls,” she says.

Shilji’s path to the national squad began only last year. When Gokulam Kerala FC chose her to play in the first season of the Khelo India U-17 Girls League. “When I got selected for the sports school, my family was very happy. I’ve got my father, mother, my grandmother, and sister in my family. Because a lot of people were working hard in the selections, I consider it a blessing that I got selected,” she humbly states.

Shilji speaks of her childhood

Shilji’s blessings were extended when she was chosen for the newest batch of the Indian U-17 squad following a selection trial in Kerala. The squad has arrived in Chennai to prepare for the SAFF U-17 Women’s Championship in Bangladesh and the AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 1 in the Kyrgyz Republic next month.

“We have been training under Priya madam for the past two months. All the coaches here are very good and supportive. If we make any mistakes, they explain to us how to do it right,” Shilji says.

Shilji, although being an offensive midfielder rather than a striker, always manages to find herself in the right spot at the right moment inside the box. Her awkward runs and fast legs were a continual source of frustration for Nepal. Every Indian onslaught either began with her or ended with her.

With Bhutan, Bangladesh, and even Russian heavyweights on the horizon, the 16-year-old goal machine isn’t going to stop until she gets her hands on the SAFF title.

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