The India international talks to Standard Sport about why she could be forced to leave the Hammers just five months into her contract.
Aditi Chauhan, who also plays for India, has been told she must return to her home country in January when her student visa expires.
The talented 23-year-old arrived in Britain last year to complete a masters in sports management at Loughborough University.
She had a trial with Millwall Lionesses but was unable to join because FA rules state that a player on a student visa cannot sign for a club in the top two tiers of women’s football. Millwall play in the second division.
But Chauhan signed a one-year deal with West Ham United Ladies, who play in the third division, in August — becoming the first woman from the India national team to play English league soccer.
However, she now finds herself in a Catch-22, as the club is unable to sponsor her application for a work visa because it is in the third-tier and classed as semi-professional.
Chauhan, who received the Asian footballer award at Wembley last week, said: “I’m trying my best to get my visa sorted. I’ll be disappointed if I can’t continue here because I would love to stay at West Ham. I’m not going to stop playing even if it means I have to go to another country to continue my career. If something doesn’t work out here, I will probably go to Australia.”
Her brother Aaditya has launched a petition backing her which has so far attracted more than 800 signatures.
West Ham, who play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division, are working with Chauhan to resolve the situation. She is considering whether to apply for an exceptional talent visa or a temporary worker visa.
The goalkeeper — who has been financially supported by her parents in India — is set to meet club chiefs next week to discuss her situation.
She said she had been overwhelmed by the response from fans and the club: “The management have been very supportive. They’ve promoted my profile on social media and I could not have asked for more. The players have been very warm and welcoming.
“There was a match at Upton Park recently, and I got the chance to speak to [West Ham United joint chairman] David Gold.
“He congratulated me and wished me luck for the Asian football awards.”
Speaking about her time in London, she said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic, especially the support that I’ve got from the West Ham fans. The level of football is high. I feel like I’m improving in every game. I’m just desperate to stay and continue my career development at the club.”
- Sign the petition to stay here: https://www.change.org/p/she-s-making-india-proud-let-s-help-aditi-chauhan