India were delegated heroes of the SAFF U-15 Women’s Championship 2019 in Bhutan a year ago. Amongst them goals that made progress towards the triumph was striker Sai Sankhe scoring threefold. AIFF saw potential in the 15-year old after a prolific performance against the hosts in the group stage of the tournament.
On Friday, July 10 – the 15-year-old recorded another milestone accomplishment as she achieved a score of 96.2% in her ICSE Class 10 assessments – the aftereffects of which were reported after ICSE disclosed their results yesterday.
She’s most likely to play for the up and coming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2021. Sai played a major part to the Indian squad that claimed second position at the U-17 Women’s Football Tournament in Mumbai a year ago. She talked in insight regarding how she offset her studies and football side by side. The 15-year old also talked about football while dealing with the ‘pressure’ that accompanies board assessments.
“The pressure was there as I really wanted to do very well in my boards and ace them. With the result I secured, I am very happy. If you love football and consider education to be as important, you can do both together — hands down.” – Sai told in an interview with AIFF.
Sai explained her daily routine to cope up with football and studies:
“The exams started at the end of February this year but my preparation began much before while we were in our training camp. I was following up with my regular school studies at all times while at the camp. If we had training in the morning, I would come back and study for some time before lunch.”
“After the evening training, I would study again. If there was no morning training on a day, I would use that time to study too. Basically, whatever time I could get, I used to it to study and prepare.” – she added.
The striker was selected for the national team a year ago. In April of 2019, she was scouted for the national group following her exhibitions at the Hero Junior Girls’ NFC 2019-20 in Kolhapur. The young striker discussed the accentuation on training set somewhere near the camp by her coaches and the All India Football Federation.
“Our coaches in the team were really supportive and stressed on how important education is for all of us. They really helped us and organized tuitions for us as well. We couldn’t have asked for more.”
“The tuitions started in November itself and we had them for three months. In the evenings, you could study any subject you want and the teacher was there to help you. I used to study history and geography in those tuitions because those are subjects I hadn’t much.”
Sai’s dad, Anand Sankhe, offered his thanks towards the league, to the AIFF and the mentors for their ‘adaptability.’
“Having regular classes and having a tutor come in creates a different atmosphere, which helps everyone to study and keeps them motivated. Additionally, it helps the girls understand studies are as important as training.” – her father said.
“Sai was allowed to leave the camp a month in advance by the coaches, which shows that the AIFF is flexible and takes care of both aspects of the development of these young players. It would have been easy for them to make the child choose one, but they didn’t do that. It was really helpful on their part and we are grateful for the support from the coaches and AIFF.” – Anand added.
Sai who resides in Mumbai, likewise talked about the ‘basic’ bolster she got from her school and guardians, who guided her to concentrate on “buckling down” and not ponder the outcome.
“I had great support from my school (Arya Vidya Mandir, Juhu), who allowed me to just go and play as they granted the required leaves. The teachers helped me with my studies. The support of my family has also been absolutely wonderful. My parents would often tell me to work hard and give my best without worrying about the marks.” – Sai recollected.
Sai’s mother Ashwini Sankhe referenced: “If the child is determined that he or she wants to excel in both academics and sports, it is very much possible. During exam time, we told her that we will be happy with whatever you score and that you should do your best. We tried to be supportive and saw that she was competitive and wanted to do well herself.”
In the interim, in a live visit with AIFF TV, Senior Womens’ National Team head coach Maymol Rocky saluted Sai on her accomplishment and accentuated on the significance of her recent ICSE result.
“Congratulations to Sai. I think that sports and academics should go hand-in-hand for both girls and boys. She has set an example for her teammates that without studies we cannot do anything. I tell all parents and fans that you need to push your children for both sports and studies and that we cannot neglect studies.” – Mayomal said.
“I think all the girls need to step up and start studying. They need to keep that in mind that there you can’t skip academics. The fans out there should understand that our federation gives importance to studies as well. And credit to the coaches also who are pushing the girls to pursue and excel in both fields.” – as Maymol gave voice to young girls and boys willing to pursue football.
Sai conveys the message that with the correct help, sports and studies can go connected at the hip for youthful upcoming athletes. Truth be told, Sai feels, the two even supplement one another.
Sharing her experience, she communicated that football has shown her lessons forever and then again, doing great in academics has empowered her to perform better on the pitch as well.
“I feel I have learnt so many life lessons from football. For example, it has taught me that life is not always fair and that things always don’t go in your favour, which is something one does not learn in classrooms.” – the 15-year old expressed.
“On the other hand, football has also helped me concentrate on my studies and keep me sharp and fresh. Doing well in my studies also makes one more confident while on the field. Both sides help the other.” she added.
Sai has kept on concentrating on improving in the two fields while attempting to utilize the current time as the lockdown upheld the nation over because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been given a fitness routine to follow by our fitness coach Per Karlsson, which I use to train in the evening six days in a week. In the mornings, I like to complete any studies that I have and help in work around the house. I have also started learning Spanish during this lockdown, as I always wanted to try learning a new language.” – as she spoke her mind with a smile.
Anand, her father likewise talked about her conceivable vocation decisions. With football and studies both an alternative, particularly with the manner football is developing and growing in India.
“We count ourselves lucky and are grateful that Sai has both options open (career in football or studies). We can see football in India is opening up brilliantly — especially women’s football — with so many opportunities coming up. The World Cup exposure would be fantastic and with the Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL) also expanding, it is looking like a viable career option in the future. We’ll see how things go in the next 1-2 years and let Sai make her choice. We will support it, no matter what.” – as he supports her daughter’ future career choice.