India's top woman footballer Oinam Bembem Devi will play her last international match here on Monday when the defending champions will put their crown on the line against Nepal in the final of the South Asian Games (SAG) championship.
"I feel sad I won't be wearing the jersey again after tomorrow. Nonetheless, I am satisfied with my contribution to Indian women's football, " Bembem told IANS during the practice session of the team on Sunday.
Acknowledging that her retirement will be a big miss to the team, India's coach Sajid Yousuf Dar said: "Bembem has given so much to Indian football. She has years of experience. She will be sorely missed. "
The central midfielder will continue to mentor the youngsters and contribute to women's football.
"India has a lot of potential footballers. I am always ready to guide them in need of help, " she said.
Bembem, who made her international debut in 1995 at the Asian Women's Championships at the age of 15, practised at full pace with her team - mates on Sunday.
"We are fully prepared for the final match. We will try all our best to defend the title and the girls have been making efforts to win matches, " said Bembem, who led the team to glory in the last edition of the SAG in Dhaka, 2010.
Bembem, the shining star of India's women's football team, also said that she will dedicate her final bow in the field to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for all its support and motivation in the last two decades.
"The AIFF has supported me throughout for the last two decades besides my parents and supporters, " she said and recounted how she defied her father, who wanted her to leave football.
"My father did not want me to play football. He wanted me to concentrate on studies but I told him I wanted to focus on football. It was only after I was selected to represent India for the very first time that my father accepted my choice and has supported me thereon, " Bembem said.
"Initially, I did not know the rules of the game (football). I started playing with the boys to prove my skills, and later I was selected to represent my home state Manipur, " she added.
(Raymond Kharmujai can be contacted at rrkharmujai@gmail. com)