Aditi Chauhan feels AIFF needs to do more for Women's football
Earlier this month, Aditi Chauhan went from an unknown entity in India’s sporting landscape to creating headlines across the country. The 22-year old from Delhi became the first football player from India to sign for an FA Women’s Premier League team, after putting pen to paper for West Ham Ladies. Their men's team was a part of the Europa League qualifiers this year.
Despite strong showings at the International level, India’s national women's team has always played second fiddle to their male counterparts. Ranked 56th in the world, they have notched up several marquee victories, including a 1-0 win against world number 12, Netherlands in 2013.
On the contrary, the Men’s team is languishing in the 156th spot, failing to beat lower ranked nations such as Guam in the World Cup qualifiers, while the women’s team has never fallen below the world top 100.
National success has not equated to domestic growth: Chauhan
Such positive results have not translated to domestic growth as India is yet to set up a professional league for women in the country. Such faulty infrastructure has seen a diaspora of sorts, with the finest young talent moving out to pursue a stronger club career. In fact, India’s first ever FA Women’s Premier League player, Tanvie Hans from Delhi got a British passport, so that she could further her career in England.
Chauhan said, “It is sad that even though Women footballers are ranked better in the world compared to men's team there is still no sign of starting a women's league to give young girls and women footballers something to look forward to.”
Even countries, which are ranked outside the top 100 and much below India have sustained professional women’s football league for the past decade or so. One such case is Maldives, they are currently ranked 128th in the world and still have a flourishing league, which has players from all over the world, including Indian national team captain Oinam Bembem Devi.
Chauhan added, “Talented players like Tanvie Hans had to move to England because she had British Passport and could not represent India and there was no other opportunity available for her in India, certainly not at a decent level which could help her improve as a player and a less developed country like Maldives also realises the potential of women’s football but Indian authorities are still struggling with the idea of a national women’s league which as a player is very frustrating for me.”
AIFF’s false promise
After India’s convincing defence of the South Asian Federation Championship last year, All India Football Federation (AIFF) that I-League franchise, Pune FC even held trials for their potential women’s team. However, those plans are yet to transpire.
In the month of January this year, AIFF Secretary Kushal Das said, “We are planning to start a franchise-based women's football league in mid-2015 with the help of FIFA.” In fact as per AIFF’s 2014-2017 strategic plan, the initiation of a women’s league was one of the aspects discussed in FIFA’s regional development seminar.
The cries of FIFA official attempting to usher in gender sensitization within Indian football seems to have fallen on deaf ears. As per the strategic plan, the league should have kicked off by now, but there seems to be no plans to even usher in basic infrastructure for the women’s game.
Chauhan said, “We do not have regular matches throughout the year how do you expect women's football to develop? It just makes me sad that AIFF has still not made any progress on the promise they made last year about starting a league for women in India and conveniently dodge questions about it in media as well.”
She added, “There is no structure for layer development that is why a lot of players give up playing football after school.”
That being said, Chauhan is upbeat about her and the sport’s future in India, she said, “The mindset of people is changing in sports especially because a lot of women athletes are doing so well at the international level.”
She added, “The standard of women's football in England is much better than in India which helps me to improve as a player and as a goalkeeper. The facilities and infrastructure is much better and the matches, leagues everything is more organized and hopefully I will don the national colours again soon.”
With India having to export their women’s talent across the world, due to lack of facilities, the AIFF needs to act on its promise of setting up a football league immediately.