A woman is a wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, teacher, soulmate, and without a woman, life can be meaningless and incomplete. In Michelle Obama’s words, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
This Women’s Day, we pay our tribute to those who are living their dreams by defying all odds. Yes, you guessed it right, it is the Indian Women who are in love with the beautiful game. The Indian Women’s National Football Team is ranked 54th in the world and dominates the South Asian geographical region. India has won the SAFF Women's Championship four times in a row since its inception in 2010.
How it all started…
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan were the first to start India’s first ever Women’s football clubs in 2000-01. Kolkata was the first state to come up with the first women’s football league – “The Calcutta Women’s League” in 1993. Although like the men’s game, early inroads into the female football were made by Bengal, soon Manipur took over. The women from the north-eastern state went on to win the Senior Women’s National football Championship a record thirteen times out of nineteen.
Most of the national squad comprises of players from Manipur, Orissa, and Bengal. Some of the legends of Indian women football have played for these three states. Manipur’s Oniam Bembem Devi is the first name that comes to the mind when one thinks of women football players in India. The veteran midfielder started her international career at an early age of 15 and till date, has scored more than 50 international goals for the country. The legend continues to remain an inspiration for millions of girls throughout the length and breadth of the country.
A couple of other names who deserve a mention here are Sujata Kar and Alpana Sil, who in February 2000 became the first Indian women players to sign for an international club when they signed a three-month trial contract with German club TSV Crailsheim. Unfortunately, the contract couldn’t be extended as problems occurred in their international transfer clearance.
The Road Ahead…
The year things took off very well as firstly, a dominant Indian women’s team defeated Bangladesh 3-1 to win their fourth consecutive SAFF Women’s Football Championship title at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on January 4, 2017.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) March 8, 2017
They celebrations got even better when The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on launched the first-ever Indian Women’s League (IWL) that was held at the in New Delhi from January 28 till February 14. The inaugural edition of the IWL saw six teams — Jeppiar (Puducherry), Eastern Sporting Union (Imphal), Rising Student’s Club (Cuttack), Football Club Alakhpura (Haryana), Aizawl FC and Pune City FC.
The Eastern Sporting Union from Manipur emerged as the first Indian Women's League (IWL) winner with a 3-0 win over Rising Student's Club.
The NEXT big target for the Indian team though is the 2018 AFC Asia Cup and Senior National Team started off with their preparations in Goa from March 1, 2017. A total of 28 Players have been called up for the preparatory camp, which ends on March 31, 2017, India has been drawn in Group B alongside hosts DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Hong Kong and Uzbekistan. The Indian Women will clash against hosts DPR Korea in their first match of the Qualifying campaign on April 03, 2017 before facing the Korea Republic on April 05, Uzbekistan, and Hong Kong on April 07 and April 11, 2017, respectively.
— Aditi Chauhan (@aditi03chauhan) March 8, 2017
The Rising Stars…
A sign of positivity was shown as all the teams that played this season’s IWL featured few very talented youngsters, which includes 12-year-old Senorita Nongpluh from Pune City. Senorita is a big fan of legendary Indian female footballer Bembem Devi. Bembem heaped praise on the youngster saying: “She reminds me of myself. I had made my debut for the senior national side at the age of only 15 years”. She wishes to put on the famous Blue jersey some day, looks like the future of Indian women’s team is in good hands.
India’s goalkeeping sensation Aditi Chauhan is currently at West Ham Ladies FC inspiring several others to believe in their dreams.
The YUVA Programme…
Founded in 2009, YUVA is now one of the largest girls’ football programs in India, with 250 players, 150 of whom practice daily. Over 600 girls have been members of YUVA so far. As a football club, YUVA is one of the few teaching life skills, with a focus on positive coaching. As an NGO, YUVA is the only sports for development organization in India with daily practices for all teams. YUVA is absolutely local, started in Jharkhand, YUVA uses football and education to put every girl’s future in her own hands.
IMAGE COURTSEY: TWITTER