Aditi urges private sector to do more for women football

Aditi Chauhan feels the recent spurt in activities around women’s football is due to India’s prolonged dominance in the South Asian region.

In 2015, Aditi Chauhan became the first Indian female footballer to play for a professional club in the United Kingdom, but had to return to India in January after her student visa expired.   -  Special arrangement

Hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel, Aditi Chauhan, the torchbearer of Indian women football, has called for “greater participation of private sector” and felt a cultural shift is taking place for better as far as the game is concerned.

In 2015, the 24-year-old Aditi became the first Indian female footballer to play for a professional club in the United Kingdom, but had to return to India in January after her student visa expired.

She made a stellar comeback when Loubourough University, where she was studying, gave her a part-time job, which offered her a chance to continue representing West Ham Ladies.

Right now, the goalkeeper is in Siliguri guarding the Indian team post in SAFF Championships.

“The AIFF (All India Football Federation) has put in a lot of effort towards developing women’s football and it will be even better if the private sector also contribute a bit more,” Aditi told.

With the introduction of women’s I-League, Aditi felt the game is headed in the right direction here.

She feels the recent spurt in activities around women’s football is due to India’s prolonged dominance in the South Asian region.

“Over the years (women) football in India has grown, especially the SAFF tournament, which we have always won. Our dominance in South Asia shows that there is huge potential. Hopefully, we will keep getting better and play at the top level in Asia soon. Women’s I-League is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Asked how different is the setup in England from India, she said: “The standard is quite high there and the most important think is that the setup is very clear and structured. Lot of leagues are taking place and available for everyone — either as hobby or professionally throughout the year. That sort of culture is coming to India."

“We (women football) don’t have a very long history in India. But a lot of things have changed for better, lot more girls have started playing the game, lot more opportunities are there now. That’s a major boost for us,” Aditi said.

“Doing well in South Asia... that’s always been there, there has to be a constant growth and I hope we will win the AFC qualifiers and keep the momentum.”

The South Asian Games gold medallist team has already entered the final of ongoing SAFF Championships, and is gunning to retain the title.While she a season left at West Ham, Aditi is open to exploring other options, including playing club football in India.

“I am already playing for India. If I get an opportunity to play a higher standard of football abroad, that will help me improve my game, that’s what every athlete aspires... trying to get into a good club abroad,” she said.

The league in UK will start in a couple of months. “I am also working in London right now, my work contract runs till August, so till then I am there.”

Currently ranked 54 in FIFA rankings and 12 in Asia, competing in the World Cup could be a distinct possibility for India one day.

“It’s important to aim higher, keep working hard and that’s what we have been doing. We got a lot of match exposure and are hoping to do well in the AFC, which is a stepping stone to higher level of tournament,” Aditi said.

“If we keep going for the next couple of years, we can be there in the World Cup.”

The year 2016 has been a year when the Indian women took centrestage in the sporting arena and Aditi was not surprised at all.

“Obviously I believe that a girl has a lot of potential. They are very strong and focussed mentally and that helps them to do well. When it comes to sports once we set our targets and believe in we can do we achieve many things.”

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