Once again, a woman has done Indian sport proud.
Manisha Kalyan, a 20-year-old from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, became the first Indian footballer to play in the UEFA Champions League on Thursday. The AIFF Women's Player of the Year 2021-22 entered record books when she made her debut for Apollon Ladies FC, a club in Cyprus, against SFK Riga of Latvia in Engomi, Cyprus.
The winger replaced Cyprus' Marilena Georgiou in the 60th minute at the Makareio Stadium. She ended up on the winning side, as Apollon Ladies won 3-0.
Manisha is the fourth Indian women's international footballer to sign for an overseas club when she landed a multi-year contract with Apollon, the Cypriot top division winners. Before her, Aditi Chauhan, Bala Devi and Dangmei Grace had played for a foreign club. Current Indian coach Thomas Dennerby calls Manisha the national team's best player.
The wiry Manisha's spark was spotted by a local PT teacher, who saw her playing against boys in the village of Muggowal. The Leo Messi admirer had registered impressive performances for the national team and Gokulam Kerala in the Indian Women's League (IWL). She was recently bestowed the Footballer of the Year for the 2021-22 season award, along with Sunil Chhetri, who was named the Men's Player of the Year.
Manisha had also earned plaudits last year when she scored with a long range leftfooter against Brazil in an international friendly in Manaus.
Apollon Ladies will next play FC Zurich Frauen on August 21.