After years of disregard, the AIFF has finally turned over a new leaf for women’s football by launching the first-ever Indian Women’s League (IWL) on Tuesday. Six teams from across the nation will participate in the 1st edition of this tournament, which is set to be hosted in Delhi from January 28.
“Indian women are ranked 54th in the world against 129 for the men. There is an outside chance and who knows, our women may qualify for the World Cup before the men’s team but for that, we have to take football to more girls and women. I know it is not easy and this is the first but very important step towards making football a viable career for women footballers,” AIFF president Praful Patel said at the inauguration, reported the Hindu.
Who knows, our women may qualify for the World Cup before the men’s team.
The league will be played at Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium from January 28 for a duration of two weeks. Although the first edition will see only six teams in it, the fact that there are teams from places like Puducherry, Haryana, and Odisha is a promising start to this new venture.
“There are teams from Pondicherry, Haryana, and Odisha here, which is a great thing. The women's World Cup is in 2019 and it is not impossible to make the cut for our women,” Patel added.
Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC (Puducherry) captain Sumithra Kamaraj has expressed her excitement at the prospect of women footballers finally having the opportunity to take up the sport professionally. She said, “I think this league would go a long way in bringing the club culture and professionalism in women’s football and hopefully enough money as well to make it a lucrative career for us even as it would give new talent a chance to step up to the top level by competing against national players,” she said.
During the event, Praful Patel also announced a reward of ₹25 lakh for the national team for retaining the SAFF Championships earlier this month.
The teams participating in the IWL:
- FC Alakhpura (Haryana)
- Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC (Puducherry)
- Aizawl FC (Mizoram)
- FC Pune City (Maharashtra)
- Rising Student Club (Odisha)
- Eastern Sporting Union (Manipur).