Panthoi becomes first Indian woman to play professional football in Australia

Panthoi's recruitment came through head coach Paul Morris during the Women in Sports Elite Football Trials held in October 2023.

Panthoi Chanu Elangbam, a 28-year-old Indian goalkeeper, has scripted history by joining Metro United WFC, a prominent team in the South Australian League.

She is the second Indian goalkeeper and the first female to play for an Australian club.

Image: Panthoi Chanu Elangbam with her club (Source: Instagram)

In 2016, Pranav Kotra, ace goalkeeper from Delhi-based Hindustan FC has became the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with Cove FC in Adelaide.

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Image: Pranav Kotra 9Source: Facebook)

Pranav originally from Noida and came to Australia in 2015 to study Diploma in Marketing. Before joining the esteemed Cove FC, Pranav has played with Hindustan FC, Mohun Bagan Sail Academy (Durgapur) and PIFA Sports FC (Mumbai). 

Panthoi’s recruitment came through head coach Paul Morris during the Women in Sports Elite Football Trials held in October 2023. Upon her arrival in Australia, Panthoi quickly made her debut for Metro United, though the match ended in a 1-2 loss to FFSA NTC on April 6.

Panthoi told Scroll:

“I am feeling very good [about being here in Australia]. Although it’s not the first time I’ve been outside the country, the coach and club have been very helpful to me. They’ve explained the situation to me and told me what to do.”

Panthoi’s passion for football ignited when she was just 12, growing up in the village of Keirak, in Manipur’s Thoubal district. Her dedication saw her making daily journeys to an academy in Imphal, about 50 kilometers away, waking as early as 4:30 AM to catch the 5:15 AM bus. Her skills flourished once she began training in Imphal, leading to her selection for various national age-group tournaments.

Between 2012 and 2018, she played for Eastern Sporting Union, later joining Manipur Police in the state league, and rejoining Eastern Sporting Union in 2019.

Eastern Sporting Union’s victory in the inaugural Indian Women’s League title in the 2016-17 season marked a significant milestone, with Panthoi being named Goalkeeper of the Year in the 2017-18 season.

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In 2021, Panthoi faced a career-threatening setback when she fractured her right shin, an injury that left her bedridden for two months and cast doubt on her future in football. However, she made a remarkable recovery, reclaiming her spot on the national team. Her resilience and determination saw her participate in the Hangzhou Asian Games and the recently concluded Turkish Women’s Cup, where India finished as runners-up.

Reflecting on her debut in Australia, where her team conceded two goals, Panthoi expressed the emotional roller-coaster goalkeepers often face.

“You can get a little angry because it may help you play better. The anger motivates you. But I also don’t think or have negative thoughts. I just listen to whatever the coach tells me to do and then play accordingly.”

Additionally, Panthoi will be training with the A-League club Adelaide United FC. She has joined the growing ranks of Indian women footballers making their mark internationally.

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