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4 reasons for the downfall of Indian women's football

The Indian Women's Team have not able to garner positive results outside SAFF.
The Indian Women's Team have not able to garner positive results outside SAFF.
Sayak Dipta Dey

The Indian Women's Team suffered huge losses in the AFC Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers in North Korea. The India U-16 team also suffered a shameful loss to Bangladesh U-16 in the SAFF U-16 Girl's Championship in 2017.

We'll take a look at four reasons which have caused the downfall and deterioration of Women's Football in India over the years.


#4 Lack of funds from the federation

As per the Strategic Plan Budget of All India Football Federation in the Financial Years from 2014-17, only 16 crores have been spent by the AIFF out of a total expense of Rs.228.64 Crores, which occurs to be only a mere 6.7 Percent of revenue spent on the development on Women's Football.

AIFF Expenses 2014-17
AIFF Expenses 2014-17From the above spreadsheet, we can clearly infer that the apex body of football in India has not done enough to help the women footballers in the country in reaching their maximum level with a minimum allocation of funds in the recent years.

In the ongoing 2017-18 financial year, a discouraging amount of just Rs. 2.29 Crores has been spent on the women's national team which accounts for a meager 3.76 percent of the total financial expenses for the current year.

On the contrary, the most dominant force in women's football in the world, the USA, has invested a whopping $241960000 in the financial year of 2014-15 which amounts to Rs. 15443701900 (42% of the yearly budget). [US Soccer Financial Statements]

Such huge disparities in funds is a huge reason for the downfall of women's football in India.

With no basic facilities, ease of access, promotion, and marketing, football for women in India is in it's worst possible phase.

#3 Lack of women's football teams and clubs

Eastern Sporting Union won the Inaugural Indian Women's League.
Eastern Sporting Union won the Inaugural Indian Women's League.

Since 1991, the top women's football tournament in India has been the Indian Women's Football Championship. The tournament served as a female equivalent of the Santosh Trophy, with states competing against each other.

There had never been an organized national football league for women. However, leagues were started by state associations for women. The first women's state football league was set up in 1976 in Manipur. The Indian Football Association of West Bengal founded the Calcutta Women's League in 1993. Leagues were also started in Mumbai and Goa in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

The UEFA and the CONMEBOL are the only Continental Football Federations to have a professional continental club competition in the form of the UEFA Women's Champions League and the Copa Libertadores Femenina.

AFC, on the other hand, does not have any women club competition and hence the AFC Nations are not under considerable pressure to have a dedicated women's league in order to comply with the AFC regulations.

India, being famous for doing the minimum just to comply with certain regulations, did not pay heed to conduct a women's league until recent times.

The state football championships for women did provide some much-needed exposure to the girls, but the quality and the professionalism were below par. After the success of Indian clubs in Asian Level and the immense fanfare rising due to the Indian Super League, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) tried to launch a women's football competition on the lines of Indian Super League and the I-League.

The Indian Women's League (IWL) came into existence in 2016 in a single-venue (New Delhi) event. On 24 January 2017, AIFF launched the first ever women’s professional league with six teams. The participating teams - FC Alakhpura (Haryana), Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC (Puducherry), Aizawl FC (Women) (Mizoram), FC Pune City (Women) (Maharashtra), Rising Student Club (Odisha) and Eastern Sporting Union (Manipur) play each other in a round-robin format with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.

The newly formed league was live streamed on the official Indian Football Team page and attracted ample amount of crowds to the Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi.

This was a great initiative by AIFF and attracted several media houses to the stadium which increased the brand value of the women footballers in India. The delay of launching a National League for women has cost us huge in International stage and in terms of popularizing the game among the feminine gender as well.

The league needs to reach out to more teams in India and must be held in other zones too. The preliminary rounds of the 2017-18 Edition were held in Kolhapur, Maharashtra which was a good sign and needs to be continued.

The lack of domestic clubs and teams in women's football has hampered its growth and more clubs need to come up and provide chances for aspiring girls to help them pursue their footballing dreams.

#2 Lack of International friendlies and exposure

Indian Women's National Team do not get to play regular matches.
Indian Women's National Team do not get to play regular matches.

United States of America (USA) women's national team have played 17 competitive games in the year of 2017 with 13 games being friendlies. On the contrary, the Indian women's national team played just seven competitive games and just one friendly against Malaysia.

FIFA Women's Football Calendar 2017
FIFA Women's Football Calendar 2017

India's principal football association, the All India Football Federation (AIFF), wasted eight friendly windows in the year of 2017 as shown above in the FIFA Women's Calendar 2017. India played Malaysia in the 16 July - 6 August window against Malaysia and won 0-2.

The lack of international exposure and amount of matches have hurt the women footballers by large. The national team has been out of competitive action for six months now with no league action as well. Players are resorting to inter-colleges and invitational tournaments at the local level to keep them going.

AIFF needs to organize more friendlies against tough sides if India needs to go up the charts in women's football.

#1 Patriarch Society

Enter Gcaption
Girls have a tough time in India to get into sports

This reason does not reflect just on the sport of football, but on every walks of life of an Indian Girl. A generic Indian Middle-Class family often does not tend to allow their girls get into sports for a living. The mentality has been hurting Women's Sports in the country and Indian Sports as a whole.

A few years ago, former Olympic bronze medalist Karnam Malleshwari had revealed that women athletes in India are subject to sexual harassment not just by coaches, but also by federation officials. Such news results in an even bigger impact on Indian Parents resulting in severe reluctance to send their daughters to play sports at a professional level.

During Asian Games, 2014, gymnastics coach Manoj Rana and gymnast Chandan Pathak were booked for allegedly sexually harassing a female gymnast at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. The 29-year-old woman gymnast alleged that the duo made vulgar and indecent remarks about her clothes.

Such horrific instances do have an appalling impact on girls taking up sports thus the best results never come despite the federations leasing huge sums of money.

Edited by Akhilesh Tirumala

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