The first Indian woman to have featured in English league football, Aditi Chauhan has made a mark for herself in Europe. The 22-year-old was recently signed by the Women's Premiere League Southern Division of West Ham United.
The goalkeeper emerged as an outstanding player when her country managed to retain the SAFF Women's Championship after defeating Nepal 3-1 in the final. Chauhan put up an impressive display that saw her concede only one goal in the tournament that came at Sri Lanka.
She told IBTimes UK, "I always enjoyed sports. I used to play basketball, do athletics and karate as well. I have a black belt in karate. I used to play football with my friends in the park. My coach asked me if I would be interested in the keeping role and I said 'yes' and gave a few trials."
After her family moved to the capital New Delhi, a nine-year-old Chauhan took up to numerous sports including basketball, athletics and karate. Since joining the London outfit, the 'keeper has claimed that her life has changed. However, she insists that if it was not for her coach, she would have not taken-up goalkeeping.
"[In Delhi] I did well during the trials and was selected for the Delhi reserves initially. Then I developed my game as I continued to play."
At the age of 15, Chauhan got a call from the U19 Indian national squad and showed potentials that she would go on to become a professional player. However, she thought otherwise.
She claimed, "When I initially started, I played because I loved the sport and I love playing football. I kept playing and worked hard. Gradually I achieved what I have today. I never planned for this to happen."
When she was in her final year of graduation, a trip to New Zealand convinced her that she should pursue a career related to sports.
"In my last year of graduation in JMC [Jesus and Mary College], Delhi University had organised a football camp in New Zealand for 20 days, where I was exposed to various options in sports. There I realised I had to make a career in sports, that's the reason I decided to do masters is sports management," she explained.
Being modest, the West Ham United player, who scored 93.25% in her graduation said: "[I] was decent in studies." When she was reminded that getting such great marks was more than decent, she laughed and said, "Ok I was pretty good... yet wanted to pursue sports as a career."
"My parents wanted me to join the Indian civil services, which was my initial plan as well. But I felt spending an entire year just to prepare for the entrance exam was something I was not prepared for," she said and added, "It was then that I went to England to do sports management. This move was difficult for me as financially it was a burden on my family. But they were supportive and my father said, 'If it is something you want to do, then we will support you'."
"I then moved there and joined Loughborough University, where I was doing my masters and played for the university team as well."
However, a job offer in London forced the 20-year-old to move to the English capital and that was when things changed for her. "I wanted to start playing football in London. I contacted a few clubs and wanted to play in the Super League and also applied for the second division open trials," she explained.
"Since I could not play with the second division clubs because of the student visa, the goalkeeper coach at Milwall, who also trains 'keepers at West Ham, told me that they were looking for a goalkeeper. I gave my trials there and was selected to play for them."
Even after achieving success on the international level, she has not forgotten her coach back at home. "I used to play for club back in India, and when I was representing India, I picked up a knee injury in 2013. It was my trainer Jagdev Chauhan from Om fitness academy who helped me recover from the injury. He worked on strengthening my knee ligament and since the past four years, I have been training under his guidance. He is not just my trainer, but he has been my mentor as well," she concluded.