AIFF hints at extension for Dennerby, eyes future role for U-17 players in senior team

As consolation for the cancelled 2020 U-17 Women's World Cup, the AIFF has assured the probables that they would be considered for senior team selection in near future.

Thomas Dennerby

Thomas Dennerby was appointed as the head coach of the U-17 Indian Women's team in November last year.   -  AFP

Head coach Thomas Dennerby could continue, but the journey of several of his Indian players has ended even before they could hit the road to fame, courtesy the cancellation of next year’s FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup.

Having worked so hard and for so long, they are now unsure about their future for no fault of theirs.

As consolation, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Wednesday assured them that they would be considered for selection to the senior team in the near future.

“I believe that some players, who are 2005-born in this team, may qualify to play in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2022. FIFA has not yet given age cut-offs, but we believe it will be 2005 to 2007-born,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told PTI.

“All these players are part of overall plan to develop women’s football. They will continue to be part of national camp. This team will be the core team to play in round one of AFC U-20 Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers in March 2021 in view of their training and exposure so far.”

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Kushal added that many of these players (who will miss out on the 2022 Women’s U-17 World Cup) “will make it” to the senior national team for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022, which the country is hosting.

The tournament in India, which was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was on Tuesday cancelled by the world governing body FIFA and the country was handed the hosting rights of the 2022 edition.

More than half of the players who were called for national camp last year to prepare for the now-scrapped 2020 edition of the tournament will be over the age of 19 by 2022.

The AIFF intends to form an Indian Arrows women’s team (like the men’s side that has been taking part in the I-League) to play in the Hero Indian Women’s League.

Kushal indicated that head coach Dennerby will be in charge of the Indian team in the 2022 edition following a contract extension.

“We believe Thomas is the right coach for the U-17 World Cup team. He has now gained experience of India and has a good track record and a very good rapport with the support staff. We will certainly be discussing with the AIFF Technical Committee to extend his contract,” he claimed.

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Asked if those countries which have qualified for the 2020 tournament like Japan, Spain, England and Germany will remain for the 2022 edition, he said, “While there's no clarity as yet, it seems logical that since the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020 is cancelled and there is likely to be a new age group, the qualifiers will be played again.”

He said there will be no financial loss on the part of the AIFF due to cancellation and the national federation will discuss with FIFA about continuing with the existing Local Organising Committee till 2022.

Das said the FIFA had taken the “best decision” to cancel the 2020 tournament as “we are not still not certain about 2021” as far as the coronavirus pandemic is concerned.

“There is no point scheduling a world cup in an uncertain situation and playing in a stadium without spectators. Hopefully, a vaccine will be developed and be available by mid 2021 and life will be back to normal thereafter.”

He added that hosting both the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup and the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022 will improve women’s football in India and help in preparing teams for qualification for the Women’s Asian Cup 2026 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027.

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