“Indian sportsmen and sportswomen are making news, creating new records, and achieving new heights almost every month this year,” said Scorch, drawing everyone’s attention in the room, “This month, Manisha Kalyan became the first Indian footballer to play in the topmost European club competition, the UEFA Women’s Champions League.”

By the time Scorch finished saying this, Verum, Orak and Felix were hovering around her as they were playing room badminton. None of them wanted the It was late evening, just before dinnertime. The dorm room was dimly lit and the Gifted Four were enjoying their free time. Scorch turned around and was surprised to see them still playing, “You guys are on fire today! You are playing non-stop! Let me join in!”

“While we play, tell us more about Kalyan and this Champions League,” said Felix hitting a shot high in the air.

“The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is a governing body for football. It organizes the UEFA Champions League (UCL), an annual club football competition. UCL held a qualification round on August 18 played between Apollon Ladies Football Club, a women’s football team from Limassol, Cyprus, and the SFK Riga of Latvia.

Kalyan plays as a midfielder for Apollon and so she was on the team. In this match, Kalyan played as a substitute for another player named Marilena Georgious. This event created history as she became the first Indian footballer – man or woman – to play in UEFA Women’s Champions League.

This is the first time ever that an Indian footballer has played in the topmost competition,” Scorch had to pause because Felix had a question.

He said, “Who is Kalyan? Where is she from?”

“Kalyan hails from a village called Mugowal in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab,” replied Scorch, “Football became her interest and hobby. Her teacher at school saw the spark in the young girl and got her admitted to the Mahilpur Football Academy.

And then there was no stopping for Kalyan. She played for the Madurai-based Sethu Football Club. This team won the Indian Women’s League 2018-19. Kalyan played in the Indian Under-17 team as well. This team played at the BRICS Cup in South Africa in 2018.

Kalyan’s talent was recognized with her goal against China in BRICS Cup. In 2021, Kalyan played a friendly match against Brazil in Manaus. While India lost the game but the 20-year-old became the first Indian to score a goal against any Brazilian senior team.

The world took note of her when she struck a brilliant goal against Brazil. At 21 years, Kalyan was named the Women’s Player of the Year.