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Women League: A big boost for Indian women’s football

india women
Oinam Bembem Devi (L) and midfielder Ngangom Bala Devi (R) hold up the winner's trophy after defeating Nepal in the final of the 3rd South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) women's football championship
Suhrid Barua
Modified 23 Apr 2016

Women’s football across the country does not quite enjoy the same patronage like men’s football. Over the years, there has been a clamour for improved infrastructure and holding of more tournaments.

Often, those calls went unheeded as the sport appeared like growing at a soporific pace. But not anymore! In a move that could change the landscape of Indian women’s football, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has come up with an ‘announcement’ that will sound like music to the ears of all and sundry, who closely follow the sport.

Also Read: Interview with Oinam Bembem Devi: "Strong grassroot level programmes will help women's football"

The AIFF’s blockbuster announcement that it will stage a women's league later this year will please many women football supporters. Such a league was just what the doctor ordered.

For a sport that is in a moribund state with few tournaments held during the year, despite the fact that India is ranked 58 in FIFA rankings as compared to the 162nd ranking of our men’s team. It may not be sarcastic to suggest that very few tournaments are held for women footballers at the national level.

In fact, the senior nationals is the only tournament that one can remember during the year, and that speaks something about the apathy Indian women’s football has endured over the years. Barring for states like Manipur, West Bengal, Odisha, Delhi, Bihar and Maharashtra, women’s football hasn’t been able to attract popularity.

Of course, there is no shortage of big names to pep up the sport. Aditi Chauhan, Tanvi Hans and Bembem Devi are well known and the troika can be used to lift women’s football in India. The much-talked about league will comprise six teams in its inaugural year and is likely to be expanded to eight teams next year.

One hopes that the inaugural women’s league gets its rightful eyeballs and not get buried under the weight of two leagues – ISL and I-League, happening in one calendar year. Indian women’s football can go up only if the league is conducted in an ‘organised’ way and not staged just like going through the motions.

The biggest gain of this women’s soccer league is that our women players – often starved of playing regular tournaments – will now have a platform to not just show their worth but also the league will throw open many hidden talents when six teams feature in the inaugural edition.

“It’s a great thing for Indian women’s football. Indian women football will grow from strength to strength in the years to come,” says former Indian captain and veteran Bembem Devi.

Published 23 Apr 2016, 18:05 IST
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