• Sat. May 21st, 2022

EXCLUSIVE: WOMEN FOOTBALL IN INDIA- WHERE IT STANDS AND WHAT IS IT ‘S FUTURE? – AN ANALYSIS

Centuries passed women took football at their feet. It has been more than forty years since Indian women entered the  field but did they get the success what they should have?

After world war I , a women’s football match attracted more than 50000 crowds in England but people banned women’s football from there club grounds and said, this game is not suitable for women.Some speculated, may be people got envious of the big crowd and from the game’s popularity caused the ban.So we can say, once upon a time women ruled this game in a place on earth.

We know how many goals Pele and Maradona scored even talk about legendary footballers like Giovanni Ferrari  and Josef Bican but hardly talk about Lily Parr who scored more than 900 goals during her 30 years playing career. 

However, In an attempt to empower women, the West Bengal government has started the Kanyashree Football Tournament in which women teams from various districts of Bengal participated.

The All India Football Federation(AIFF) gave the responsibility to organise the tournament to IFA and the final match was held on March 22 where SSB Women FC lifted the Kanyashree Cup this year.

IFA General Secretary Joydeep Mukherjee wanted to organize a women’s  football league among all the districts of West Bengal. We can say it’s his brain child.


“We shared the idea with our sports minister ,Arup Biswas who readily accepted it and allocated a grant and  infrastructure. Last year we had 17  teams and this year 22 and the entire game took place under CMS.The good part was that not only women players but the entire match was officiated by women referees too.”

Another women’s tournament was organised last year in Darjeeling by the United Kurseong Football Association which functions under the Kurseong Football Association.

For the past couple of months, KFA has been promoting women’s football tournaments across the hills. It has already organised two back to back women’s football tournaments in the tiny hilly hamlet in sub-divisional and district level.

The West Bengal government has already introduced several schemes for adolescent girls  and women  which includes Kanyashree Prokolpo (Project) , Rupashree Prokolpo, Sabooj Sathi scheme and Swasthya Sathi health insurance cards for betterment of women.

Two years back Mamata Banerjee Government assured that they are   committed to empowering women. 

“Women are the pillars of our society and are our pride.From Kanyashree to Rupashree, our government is committed to the welfare and empowerment of women,” Banerjee tweeted.

Anyway,  India is a country where cricket is dominating for a long time. Despite this fact in recent years football has also gained people’s attention.

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SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship title 2022 won by Indian women’s team

So coming to the topic “scope of Indian football for women”, I feel things have  pretty changed.  Talents are being recognised and most importantly football has found it’s place among women too. Because of interest and will to give 100% to the game Indian women football team won SAFF WOMEN’S FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP this year. 

The women’s national team is yet to participate in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Olympic Games. Present ranking of the team according to FIFA Women’s World Rankings is 57 and 11 among the Asian countries. 

Despite such achievements, bitter truth is, the cold attitude of governing bodies as they are unable to provide sufficient funds and facilities for the training and betterment of women football.

“Womens football was neglected but I always believe that there is lot of potential in women players all over Bengal. I strongly believe if proper platform can be given ,women football will Excell even faster than men- football. Today more clubs  are applying to play ,which will make it more challenging and will help the players to earn more”. Joydeep Mukherjee shared his thoughts. 

SSB Captain Dular Marandi and Coach Anindya Sashmal. Photo credit : SSB

Anyway, the road isn’t so easy but nowhere it is written that it is unachievable! One of the barriers to it’s growth is that many women experience prejudice for participating in this game.Once the then  FIFA president Sepp Blatter referred to India as a “sleeping giant”, presumably implying that with over 1.3 billion people, all it needs is a kick up its rear end before it “wakes up” and begin harnessing all that potential.

AIFF Match Commissioner Aparup Chakraborty feels without Joydeep Mukherjee’s effort  the success of Kanyashree Cup wouldn’t have been possible.

“This was much needed to promote Women’s football in Bengal.  We are planning to include 8 Quarter finalists of  Kanyasree Cup  to do a  FUTSAL Tournamemt soon so that we can prepare a Bengal Women’s Futsal Team as well.This will encourage more participation in the grassroot football and futsal as well.”

India has lost her golden age.Actually in 1979 and 1983 Indian Women’s team were runner-up in the Asian Championship. In between, in 1981 the team bagged the third position. The Women’s team participated in the world cup in 1982.

The team was one of the best in Asia in the mid 1970s to early 1980s.

The highest ever FIFA rank which the Indian women’s team achieved was 49 in 2013. The lowest they dropped to was 63 at one point in 2019.The Indian women team  had ended the year 2020 at 53rd position but have dropped to 57 in April 2021 which is also the current ranking. It definitely could be better. 

“For women’s football to change in India there need to be more state-level matches and better training facilities for the girls.It’s very shameful that women’s sports in India is not treated on the same level as men’s.” Shanti Mullick, the woman football icon who took India to two AFC Cup finals said.

Inspite of such obstacles talents are climbing up to the ladder and with time they will get everything they deserve. Recent achievments are just examples that such things are achieved by these talents without proper funding and facilities as well as proper infrustuture.

So what will happen if proper funds, training, facilities are provided?

Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar captained the Indian Women’s team in Women’s World Cup. “India have the potential which need to be  polishing those talents and in coming future definitely things for Indian football for women will become better and better.

Things have changed and situations have also changed.Now AIFF as well as IFA are trying their level best to promote the women football..I am very hopeful”.

Although Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar is showing positive attitude, another woman Captain of Indian football Shanti Mullick feels differently. 

North East states are far ahead of Bengal if the TMC government really wants to develop football,  they should involve more ex players than politicians in football clubs and associations’ administration.” 

The future is bright in Kerala, Goa and North East. The game is popular but unfortunately there is no money to support it.Ms Mullick added. 

Looking ahead, a further expansion of grassroot programmes should be  on the cards.Govt should take more initiative for the well being and  improvment of Women’s football. ISL should be implemented besides IWL.

There should be some plans to introduce an U-15 tournament as a stepping stone for girls .

The state association also intends to expand its women’s programme from the ground level. That means encouraging girls to take up football from a young age and start football coaching programmes and tournaments for girls too.

But what is the future of this tournament?

In case  the present government is toppled down some day, will the new government continue this keeping in mind the ideas of women empowerment or the new government will close down this tournament on some pretext or the other so that the decisions of the previous government could be removed from the minds of the people? 

As long as this tournament is nurtured by a particular party will this remain only as a political stunt or the expectations of the people will really be fulfilled in future , only time will tell.

Pics : (AIFF & IFA)

Pratyusha Mukherjee

Writer Pratyusha Mukherjee, a renowned Journalist from Kolkata. In her illustrated career she covered many major events and achieved International and Indian Media Awards for Journalism.

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