With the fourth edition of the highly anticipated Indian Women's League all set to begin, all eyes will be on the best women footballers across the nation as they go head-to-head with one another for the most coveted prize in Indian women's football.
The IWL, slated to commence on January 24, begins with a mega face-off between Karnataka-based team Kickstart FC and Krypsha FC, from Manipur. Defending champions Sethu FC, who set the field ablaze in the previous term, take on FC Kolhapur on the same day at 3 PM IST.
Bengaluru's very own Bangalore Football Stadium is set to play host for all the matches across the 21-day period. The final is to be held on February 14.
Unlike the previous years, this season will have two groups of six teams apiece, with the top two of both pools set to go through to the semi-finals. Not to mention, another new advancement comes in the form of a rolling trophy.
Ahead of the tournament, Maymol Rocky, the women's national team head coach and Sunando Dhar, CEO of the AIFF, addressed the media in Bengaluru, before unveiling the trophy as well.
Excited at the prospect of a rolling prize, Dhar stated,
A rolling trophy is something which augurs well with players and the contest gets intense amongst them. It'll surely push the girls further to give an extra bit on the field to lift it on 14th February.
A number of interrogations were made on the status of the artificial turf in the stadium, which was supposed to be converted to a trimmed grass track. The panel, while ruing the fact that those facilities haven't been incorporated, promised the revamp on the patch to be done within two or three months.
When asked about the change in dynamics of the league that is to happen in the coming years and a possibility of a larger scaled competition, the AIFF CEO remarked,
"Definitely. At some point in time, it's important to have both home and away matches like the boys. From the administrative point of view, the league has to be long-term, at least for three-four months and most importantly, the clubs should always get to play more matches."
Maymol Rocky, who claimed that her main aim in this tournament is to handpick the best crop of players and help them transcend to a more global level, also believes in more matches, tighter schedules and greater workload.
On the same lines, she added that she is pleased and grateful to even have such a platform, while most of the other countries do not. Since her agenda was mainly to have more activity on the pitch, we caught up with her to ask if, in order to do the same, the AIFF could convert the competition to a league and not a knockout.
Replying with certainty, Rocky responded,
"See, if you think as a coach; any coach will say we need longer leagues. But for me, for what is happening now, is praiseworthy. In a year, definitely, this is the biggest platform the girls are receiving. And not to forget, the demands for players have gone up due to the league."
It'll be interesting to witness the best women teams around the various corners of the Indian landscape lock horns against each other, beginning with the high-voltage clash between Kickstart FC and Krypsha FC.