The Trailblazers: Jyoti, Kiran and Kashmina reminisce about emphatic Europe experience 

Indian women footballers have been recently doing extremely well at the club level, with stints in senior teams at various European clubs.

Three of these players – Jyoti Chouhan, Kiran Pisda, and MK Kashmina scripted history when they were part of ZNK Dinamo Zagreb’s Croatian Women’s Football Cup-winning team a few days ago.

It started when Jyoti, hailing from Madhya Pradesh’s Sardarpur, received a contract to play for the Croatian side after excelling in the trials conducted by the Women in Sports Foundation back in 2022. Accompanying her to Europe, was former Gokulam Kerala teammate Soumya Guguloth.

Kashmina scores in penalty shootout as ZNK Dinamo Zagreb secures maiden cup title

While Soumya joined the Indian Women’s League outfit after spending a year with the Croats, Jyoti stayed on and had a better understanding of the differences between the club football culture there and at home.

“Their football is quite different from that of Indian clubs. Here, if we had gym on a day, we would just have that, no training. In Croatia, even on the days we had gym, we trained,” the 24-year-old forward told Sportstar.

“Being there, I’ve improved in a lot of aspects. Be it my fitness, game, or diet. In India, the seasons are very short. IWL is usually for a month, whereas there, the seasons are about six months long.”

Despite Soumya leaving Dinamo Zagreb, it wasn’t long until Jyoti was joined by fellow Indians. Last year, Kiran and Kashmina joined Zagreb on one-year deals through the Women In Sports trials.

Jyoti was the link between the two newbies and their European dream. While she translated for them, Jyoti felt happy in the company of two other compatriots.

“Since Jyoti di was there, the language problem wasn’t there much,” said 23-year-old Kiran, who was part of the Indian national team at the 2022 SAFF Championship.

Hailing from Chhatisgarh’s Balod, Kiran has previously played for Kerala Blasters and Sethu FC. She too noticed significant differences between Indian and foreign clubs.

“The kind of grassroots development that has been done, it shows in their senior teams. Their U-15, U-17 teams train at the senior team level,” she said over a phone call.

Kashmina, a 23-year-old player from Manipur’s Imphal East, concurs with her former Zagreb teammate. “I won’t lie, there’s a big difference,” she said on Wednesday, a day after she landed in her hometown and regaled people she knew with stories from Europe.

It was Kashmina who scored the winning penalty that beat ZNK Osijek 5-4 on penalties and handed Dinamo Zagreb its maiden Cup title.

-Lending a helping hand-

Jyoti’s mother faced a lot of difficulties following the death of her father. Her mother felt a little more at ease when the prolific striker, who netted nine goals for Zagreb, turned proffesional.

“From the beginning, my mother thought that I could do something, and supported me,” Jyoti said as now she supports her family.

Kashmina, the daughter of an auto driver, had her mind set on one thing. “When I went to Croatia, I had this dream of making my father leave driving the auto. I sent money from there, and now the situation at home is slightly better,” Karishma, who calls her father a ‘superhero’, said.

What next?

Jyoti was included in the Indian women’s national team’s probable squad for its upcoming friendlies against Myanmar. Currently, in Kolkata, she will be taking part in the training camp and hoping to be on the final list.

As for Kiran and Kashmina, the duo hope the European experience under their belts will make the phone ring once again for a national team call up.

When asked whether they would want to continue plying their club football trade abroad, Jyoti said, “Dinamo has offered me a new offer, if I’m willing, but I want an even better challenge. I want to play for one of the best teams in Europe, or Saudi Arabia. I would come back to India if I get a good chance, but I would like to play abroad as much as I can.”

While Kiran would be happy to play either for an Indian club or a foreign one, Kashmina doesn’t want to reveal her plans just yet.

“I haven’t made my decision yet, I want to relax a bit. I want to give people a surprise,” Kashmina said.

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