With league still in doubts, a look at women’s football in India

League for india women’s players

Amidst uncertainty of starting a league, let’s take a look at women’s football in India and what future holds for them

According to AIFF’s Lakshya program, given India’s encouraging FIFA Rank of 57 in women’s football, we have a huge opportunity to do well at the International stage. Hence, a few initiatives to provide the basic infrastructure and technical support to women’s football in India were in discussion, including talks about erecting the various support structures for players, clubs and teams to succeed.

These support structures include basic infrastructure (such as, a National Football Training and Development Centre, Stadiums, Practice Pitches etc), administrative support, medical support, communications, events, etc. All these were the idea’s and plans of AIFF to improve the national teams ranking to be among top 40 in world and top 8 in Asia. Despite all this, the board has failed to implement a fix running structure for the women’s football in India.

Lack of proper domestic setup for women’s football

Since 1991, the Indian Women’s Football Championship has been the women’s National football tournament in India. The female version of the Santosh Trophy follows state teams competing against each other. Despite, many states like Manipur, West Bengal, Mumbai, Goa coming up with its own women’s league over the years, there has never been an organized national football league for women.

In 2014, after SAFF Women’s Championship success, talks to start a women’s football league along the lines of ISL began.  I-league Clubs such as Pune and Bengaluru FC expressed their interest in the joining a women’s league. As a result, AIFF started plans to create the ISL-style women’s football league.

league for womenBack in April, this year, after a long overdue of planning and structuring, the AIFF President, Praful Patel, confirmed the news that women’s football league would kick off in October 2016. Two months later, in July, a workshop was organized to discuss the India women’s national team and the proposed women’s football league. According to media reports, Five Indian Super League sides and three I-League teams attended the workshop. It was announced that the league would feature the eight teams in the league and two other spots would be determined through a pre-qualification round.

Now a month before the proposed time of start of league, AIFF as came out with another reason to stall the league. According to AIFF, Despite interest from various ISL and I league clubs, the initiative has failed to pick up steam as they are yet waiting for written confirmation from the interested clubs. The league has now been pushed to January next year. According to a top officials,”I league clubs are not in their best financial shape while ISL clubs are currently busy with their season. Also with merger in turmoil, Things look dim for a women’s league at present,”

Also Read: AIFF launches its Mission 11 Million project in Goa

A proper platform for future of women’s football

The future of Indian women’s football can have a chance, provided a proper platform is available. There is no dearth of talents as shown by the under-16 teams in the recent AFC U-16 Qualifiers. Despite bowing out, the Indian Eves, over the Course of the tournament, had won two out of their four matches – against Malaysia and Northern Mariana Islands, while losing to Philippines and Korea Republic.

Numerous grass root programs are being implemented all over the country for encouraging football as career option for girls. A Women’s league will go a long way in ensuring that. It will give an option, currently with no such option, most of girls drop out of the game with just state representation, instead of clubs, which as a result gives limited option for players. Football needs continuous playing at a competitive level. AIFF needs to look after all these if they are serious in improving women’s football

AIFF should also look after the player’s option in foreign leagues since there is no proper one here yet. Aditi chauhan who is playing in England with west ham ladies team had to struggle with VISA problems.

“The biggest struggle has been to find opportunities and to continue playing,” Aditi, who works during the day, trains in the evenings and plays matches on Sundays, says, “Had there been enough support, I could just focus on football and not worry about how to fund my next visa.”

Also Read: In discussion with Durva Vahia on her time in the game and how she ended up being a footballer

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