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Footballer Jyoti yearns for space to play in Delhi

September 26, 2013 10:52 IST

Footballer Jyoti yearns for space to play in Delhi

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Laxmi Negi

Jyoti Burrett has gathered substantial buzz around her.

It is not just her debut on the national football scene at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers, but also her academics that raised eyebrows.

This football enthusiast, an alumni of Welham Girls' School in Dehradun and Delhi's St Stephen’s College, has a masters degree in Sports and Health Science from Exeter University, UK. 

If this is not enough to establish her credentials as the next big thing in Indian football, sample this: she trained with Tottenham Hotspur during their pre-season camp in 2012!

And since the 23-year-old also has various juggling awards to boast of, it was not surprising that extra heads turned in her direction. In fact, Jyoti was so smitten by juggling that she almost took up the art before better sense prevailed.

Now, having realised her dream of representing the country, all she yearns for is a ground in Delhi for women like her to train peacefully. That, she says, will bring more women to the game and help raise the stock of the national team.

Laxmi Negi met with this juggler-turned-footballer. Excerpts from the freewheeling interview that followed.

In India, being a woman professional woman footballer is like taking up sport part-time. Your views...

That is quite true. There aren’t enough opportunities to play regularly and, as a result, it is a part-time activity, which shouldn’t be the case, especially when trying to compete at an international level. There needs to be a lot more tournaments, friendlies and leagues for women’s football for it to be a full-time profession. 


Photographs: Courtesy: AIFF Media

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'I will never regret my decision to play football'

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You grabbed attention for your academic achievements. Now, since there is a lull in the women’s football season, do you feel it is worth being a professional footballer?

Football is my passion. Whether it’s during season or not, I still love to play the game. It has been a dream to play for the country and even though I wish I had a chance to do it more regularly, I still think my dream is worth it.

India’s standing in women’s football is abysmal; added to it the game is hardly promoted in the country. Have you ever regretted taking up football?

I will never regret my decision to play football. It’s what makes me happy and what I feel I’m best at. A passion can never be sidelined. I am fortunate to have a sport-loving family. Nothing could make them prouder than seeing me be a professional sportswoman.


Photographs: Courtesy: Jyoti Burrett/Facebook

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'I look forward to helping Indian women's football move towards the mainstream'

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What do you look forward to as a national team player?

I look forward to helping Indian women’s football move towards the mainstream by giving every game all I’ve got to offer as a player.

The Indian women’s league does not enjoy the popularity and reach like the I-League. The International Management Group (IMG) has also ignored women footballers. What makes you stick to football as a profession?

Football is what I am best at and what I enjoy playing the most. I don’t think any amount of fame or money can change my choice of sport.


Photographs: Courtesy: Jyoti Burrett/Facebook

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'Francesco Totti has always been my idol'

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Sure your immediate family is very supportive about playing the sport. But there must have been some words of discouragement from relatives. Did you face any ridicule?

My family has been nothing but supportive in my choice to play football. It is a dream come true for them to see me represent the country and doing something they know makes me happy. They see me come alive when I play, and that in turn gives them immense joy. They have followed my progress every step of the way and have always taken a keen interest in my football activities. This isn’t the case for most people, but I am lucky to have such great family support.

When the going gets tough, what/who do you turn to?

My family is my strength. They can get me through anything.

You have this liking for Italian teams and players. Any particular reason?

Francesco Totti has always been my idol. In fact, he inspired me to pick up a ball in the first place. I just love his style of play. I have been a loyal AS Roma supporter for over 10 years now.


Photographs: Courtesy: Jyoti Burrett/Facebook

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'Always hard to find the right places to train and play football in Delhi'

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In Delhi, at least, do people notice you?

When I play, yes. Otherwise, people aren’t very clued up about Indian football in general.

Also, Delhi is said to be a woman-unfriendly city. How difficult was it to progress as a football player?

It’s always hard to find the right places to train and play football in Delhi. Fortunately, I have been part of the Jaguar girls club and that has helped me immensely. There needs to be a lot more clubs and groups out there, giving young girls opportunities to grow as footballers.

If a youngster is academically inclined and excels in football too, would you advice him/her to take up the sport as a profession?

I would say study and get academically qualified, but never let your passion for sport take the back seat. Divide your time equally between the two as they are equally important. There is always enough time for both.


Photographs: Courtesy: Jyoti Burrett/Facebook

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