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AIFF needs to start an Indian National Football League for Women

Kuhelika Guha
1.91K   //    15 Nov 2012, 17:53 IST

It doesn’t make sense, especially when we consider the rankings of the men’s and women’s teams. Despite being ranked a low 169 in the FIFA Rankings, the men still have their I-league. On the other hand, women have squat despite being ranked 52nd in the world.

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Football as a sport has been growing in India persistently over the past few decades. With the professionalization of the I-league for men, its growth has only accelerated. The benefits of a national league for the game, players and the nation has been clearly evident. The league has facilitated better media coverage, maintenance and development of stadiums and fields, a professional career for players with opportunities for growth and a source of income and inflow of foreign coaches and players. These facets have in turn led to higher interest and following of the league, upgradation of coaching practices and integration with world football, and obviously more players now want to make a career in Indian football. Kudos to AIFF and I league for that!

However, the state of women’s football in the country is very bad. In fact, many will be surprised to know that it even exists. But it not only exists, but is definitely popular and widespread. There are thousands of women who play football across the country. Another misconception is that the game is restricted to the eastern regions of the country, but even this holds untrue. North, south, east, west…the game is booming, and that too without any stimulation or support. A majority of the women who play the game belong to the lower socio-economic strata of the society. The game doesn’t offer them pay or job opportunities, but they continue playing for the love of the game.

There are hardly any tournaments and leagues for women. All states are supposed to have a state league, as per the AIFF guidelines, but hardly any of them execute it. For a fact, the capital hasn’t had its state league in 5 years. The only other tournaments for women are the Under 19 and Senior Women’s Football Nationals that are held once a year. The National Games also has women’s football as one of its events, but it happens to be a closed event, and only a select few states are invited to play. There are no monetary benefits or growth opportunities for the players, for these women are neither treated nor considered as players. The condition and state is bad.

The question arises – if men were subjected to pursue football under the same conditions i.e. no pay, status, facilities, bad grounds, one tournament a year, opportunity to improve, and no career opportunity and future benefits, would they continue PLAYING? Is the love of the game a strong enough reason to drive a player to subject themselves to intensive training, discipline and hard work when they know that there will be no reward for their efforts in the end? The answer is NO. Then why are women any different from men? Is the constitutional right to gender equality only restricted to paper? Why is it that these players are being denied their right to play?

Many FIFA representatives have quoted that the future of football is feminine. Women’s leagues are not a new thing. They have been prominent worldwide since the late 60’s and 70’s. Some of the popular professional and national leagues worldwide are:

• Women’s Professional Soccer – USA
• Frauen-Bundesliga – Germany
• Toppserein– Norway
• Premier League Women – England
• UEFA Premier League – Europe
• L – League – Japan
• Damallsvenskan – Sweden
• SuperligaFemina – Spain
• Women’s National Soccer League – Australia
• Supreme Division – Russia
• Feminine Division 1 – France
• Elitedivisionen – Denmark
• Naistenliiga – Finland
• Urvalsdeild – Iceland
• Serie A – Italy
• LigaLeumit – Israel
• Super LigaFemenil de Futbol – Mexico
• WK-League – Korea Republic
• CampeonatoNacional – Portugal
• Scottish Women’s Premier League – Scotland

It has been done before, but it’s just waiting to happen in India. There isn’t any lack of interest or shortage of players in our country. What is lacking is the support and initiative to mobilise and nurture these players to their full potential. So, we demand, from our government and the governing football body (AIFF), a national pro football league for women with the same platform as the men’s league. There has been enough discrimination. But give us our right to be equals. Give us our league.

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Kuhelika Guha
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