India will be hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next month, but the global body of football wants to create a legacy for the women’s game in the country that would live beyond the tournament.
FIFA wants to work with the new administrators at the All India Football Federation (AIFF), aiming to bridge the gap and set up a roadmap for development of women’s football in the country.
One of the areas that FIFA wants to work on is to have a full-fledged women’s national league that would last for about six months, so that the players have enough game time and exposure. Currently, the women’s football league runs for nearly a month, but the governing body believes that a longer window will help. And, for that, it wants to discuss with the AIFF office-bearers about the scope and possibilities.
“We are (not only) looking to all the member associations to have a national team competition, but also a strong national league because for most associations players necessarily don’t play abroad. So, (it is important that) they build their own base. Of course, the players are in their own league playing across six or eight months. Probably, (it) has a better effect on the performance in the national team,” Arijana Demirovic, the head of FIFA’s women’s football development, said on Saturday.
“Due to COVID-19, we faced a lot of challenges in terms of the women’s game. A lot of leagues could not happen due to several reasons, but that said, it does allow us an opportunity to change that. (We need) to look at different structures, activity across different states... so much has happened at the club level. Many clubs are willing to invest in the women’s game. So, that should be a priority.... to work with the federation in the coming months,” Demirovic said.
India hosted the 2017 men’s U-17 World Cup and following the success of the event, the FIFA awarded the women’s U-17 World Cup to the country, too. “Everyone is working very diligently to make sure that the tournament takes place and it really sets the tone for the women’s game in India and also globally. In 2017, you had the most successful youth tournament on the men’s side and that’s something we really want to build on,” she said.
“Some of the initiatives we are here to see - the referring course, the coach education scholarship for different women and the ‘Football for All’ carnival - it is about making sure that we are creating that first step for girls and women to access football,” she said.
While the target is to make sure that the women players see a pathway in football, FIFA also wants to see more women in different roles by setting up new programmes.
“Hosting youth tournaments define how we develop the sport in the country. For us, these tournaments have been successful because we continue working with these member associations and when we go back after three or five years, you see a lot of progress,” she said.
“Sometimes we talk about legacy, but we may not be able to measure it on October 30, but I very much hope to see progress and development across the years. I also believe India has a lot of potential. We need to build structures for the really good players and allow them talent, education and active training to get to that stage.”
The tournament will be played across three centres - Navi Mumbai, Margao and Bhubaneswar - between October 11 and 30. “I would strongly say that the whole idea of hosting these tournaments is to get the smaller members exposed to the experience and to light the fire in terms of within the population and grow interest. It serves as an inspiration for many to take up the sport,” Demirovic said.
Demirovic will head to Bhubaneswar on Sunday to look at how things are shaping up ahead of the big-ticket event.