Women’s football in India

Women’s football in India

Women’s Football in India was under the shadow of men’s football for the beginning years of football in India. Women’s Football Federation of India (WIFF) had administered the game in 1975 until the early 1990s when they got merged with the AIFF. Women’s football also had its early initiators in the state of West Bengal. Teams in Kolkata, East Bengal, and Mohun Bagan, started women’s football in the 2000–01 season. They participated with many other teams in the Calcutta Women’s Football League. Until the year 1983, women’s football took part in international tournaments like the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. They also won a silver in 1980 at Calicut. In later years the team also struggled and had become weak in status just like the male football team.  In 2009-10, The Mumbai Women’s Football League, organized by the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA), was a huge success. It featured many talented players who had played for the national team. Even further, the popularity of the event gave hope that the women’s game could rise in India. 

So, on 21 April 2016, after a year since the AIFF started plans for a women’s football league, the AIFF President, Praful Patel, said that a women’s football league would kick off in October 2016. It would consist of six teams, which would expand to eight teams by 2017. After just over two months, on 5 July 2016, the AIFF organized a workshop to discuss the Indian women’s national team and discuss the proposed women’s football league. On 14 October, the AIFF announced that the preliminary rounds for the Women’s League would begin on 17 October 2016 in which ten teams split into two groups of five teams each, with the winner from each group qualifying for the national finals.

The best way in which the Indian women’s football team will have a bigger impact on world football is when they will be groomed in the sport at an early age, through a local club or team and their parents showing good support to them.

Female players like Chitra Gangadharan, Jaanki Kotecha got selected in All-Asian Star Team in 2008–2009. Sujata Kar and Alpana Sil became the first Indian footballers to sign a contract outside India. These players have heavily inspired many girls to take up football as a career. We hope for the best that more such players come up and make India proud.

The current state of football in India

The current state of football in India

Currently, the Indian Super League (ISL) is a huge factor playing its role in the Indian Football scene. The introduction of the ISL in 2014 was a great initiative by the AIFF to help players be more active on the field, get more playtime, and also help youngsters to play more competitively. ISL helped in a lot of factors such as finance, reach, investments, advertisements, and mainly gave players an aim and fans a ray of hope for Indian Football.

 India’s football team was ranked in the 150 regions in FIFA rankings for a long time. They had even slipped to 173 in 2015. Two years after the launch of the ISL, Indian football has seemed to go in the right direction. India ranked 137 in 2016 and achieved its best FIFA ranking since February 1996, as it ranked 96th position in 2017. Many experts regard ISL to be behind India’s success. Steve Coppell, when working for Jamshedpur FC as a manager, said, “Since the ISL started, the Indian national team has gone from about 170th to 100th in the FIFA rankings, and Stephen Constantine has done a terrific job. I think that the ISL has played a part in it.” India currently ranks 108th in the FIFA football rankings.

Keeping in mind the effect of ISL, we should also consider the current situation where a player has no clear path on which he/she will get the opportunity to play in the big leagues is also a huge drawback. Parents, on the other hand, do not have the utmost confidence in football as a career choice that would provide sustained revenue and have economic stability. These reasons then convert to a lack of support for the child who wishes to pursue a career in football. The grooming of players at an early age is what is majorly missing in their development.

There is still is a lot of ground to be covered by India’s football system to reach its highest potential. New platforms, new tournaments, new talents will surely help India to achieve a much higher rank.

Fingers crossed, let’s hope for the best.

Beginning of Football in India

Beginning of Football in India

In the early days, football was considered to be a western sport as it originated in England in the 12th century. India was formally introduced to football by Britishers in the 19th century. But it wasn’t as popular as cricket. Earlier, soldiers serving in the British army used to play football, and then it slowly got accepted by the general public. Calcutta FC was the first club to be established in 1872. Later, clubs like Dalhousie Club, Traders Club, Naval Volunteers Club, Mohun Bagan, and Aryan Club were formed in Calcutta around the 1890s. Calcutta, the then capital of British India, became the hub of Indian football. Gladstone Cup, Trades Cup, and Cooch Behar-Cup are some of the tournaments that were organized. The Durand Cup and IFA Shield were both started in the late nineteenth century.

During the mid-19th century, Olympic football was a top competition of football. In 1948, at the London Olympics, the Indian team played barefooted and surprised the world. The Indian team, which had legends like P.K. Banerjee, and Neville D’Souza, defeated Ajax in a friendly before returning. Later after 8 years, India finished fourth at the 1956 Olympics.

In Independent India, football was prominently played in West Bengal, North Eastern states of India, Goa, and Kerala. India first came into the spotlight of international football when they qualified for the 1950 FIFA WorldCup, but could not play due to various issues. 

Football (in India) got popular in the 2000s and is considered the rebirth of Indian football. During 2003-04, the senior team participated in the Afro Asain Games. They defeated Rwanda and Zimbabwe who were very ahead of India in world rankings. Unfortunately, India lost the final to Uzbekistan by 1 goal (the final score was 1-0). This was when the Indian team earned a high reputation and recognition in India and as well as abroad. This was achieved under the then-India coach Stephen Constantine who won the AFC Manager of the Month in November 2003. Constantine had produced one the best victories for the Indian team in the early 2000s when they won against Vietnam in the final of LG Cup. Vietnam had taken a quick lead of 2 goals in the first 30 mins. India came back scoring 3 goals and winning the match with a score of 3-2. It was India’s first victory abroad (tournament outside the subcontinent) since 1974. Bob Houghton who was a much-experienced coach was then hired in 2006. Under Houghton was when India actually saw the rise and won trophies. In 2007 India won the Nehru Cup for the first time in history defeating Syria 1-0. In 2008, India defeated Tajikistan 4-1 to win the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. In 2009 India won the Nehru Cup again.  These top performances by the young Indian players renewed interest among the youth. Thus, when India won the hosting rights for FIFA U-19 World Cup in 2017, it shattered the previous record of match-spectators, with more than 1.3 million spectators. Football is also reaching a level following in India, where it is transforming to be a sport that binds together the entire population.