Women’s football deserves a better deal

A strong force in the Indian women's basketball and volleyball, Kerala currently does not have a women's league of its own.

Amrutha Aravind, who will be chief coach of Tamil Nadu-based Sethu FC.   -  The Hindu

Kerala women are a strong force in Indian basketball and volleyball but women’s football appears to be a case of lost opportunity.

Despite the state being among the country’s best a couple of decades ago, women’s football does not even have a league of its own in Kerala. And the Kerala Football Association’s State Junior Girls Championship, which Thiruvananthapuram won earlier this week in Kochi, was just making its debut this year.

However, with world body FIFA naming India as the host of next year’s under-17 Women’s World Cup, winds of change are blowing.

And suddenly, now everybody is talking about women’s football’s huge potential.

“The FIFA ranking of our women (63) is much better than our men (101). If we focus on women’s football seriously, I think India can reach the world’s top 20 very soon,” said P. Anilkumar, the general secretary of Kerala Football Association.

“If we could climb to 63 without concentrating much on the sport, we can reach the 20-range in two to three years if all the states put an effort and create a strong league from the grassroots level.”

Despite being a sport with immense potential, with even a chance to produce the first Indian side to play in a senior FIFA World Cup, it’s clear that women’s football has not been given a fair deal in Kerala.

Four years ago, the KFA conducted the State Women’s League in Wayanad but it was stopped after just one edition.

“We had a proper league only once. That year, we provided everything, boarding, lodging and transport. But we could not continue that due to lack of funds, the kind of money we get from sponsors is not sufficient enough,” said Anilkumar.

But Amrutha Aravind, who had been the head coach of two different teams (Kozhikode’s Quartz FC and Puducherry’s Indira Gandhi Academy) in the first two editions of the Indian Women’s League and who will be chief coach of Tamil Nadu-based Sethu FC in the IWL’s third edition in Punjab next month, is not very convinced with that.

“It’s just that they are not interested in women’s football,” said Amrutha who is also a Kerala Sports Council coach.

“We see a massive growth in women’s football all over but it’s not happening in our State. They don’t give importance to women’s football like many other States do. If they can have a Baby League and other leagues, why not a women’s league?”

Amrutha cites the case of Tamil Nadu to prove her point.

“Tamil Nadu has made big progress in women’s football, they won the National senior and junior titles last year, beating Manipur.

“When we were playing, Tamil Nadu was not even in the picture but they focused on grassroots and that is producing results. If we start focusing on the grassroots, the future will surely be bright.

“We have the teams, we even have the district league in Kozhikode with four strong schools in the sport, but what we need is exposure. We need more tournaments.”