AIFF president Praful Patel lauded the Indian women's football team for its good performances in the first half of 2019, on Wednesday.
Since January, the team has toured Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Turkey and reached the second round of the AFC Olympic Qualifiers after having played 15 international matches in less than three months. The women also successfully defended their SAFF Championship crown.
The team is currently training in Delhi for the Cotif Cup that will be played later this month, and the AFC Qualifiers. “ All India Football Federation is extremely proud of you. I am very proud of you. The entire country is also very proud of you,” Patel said.
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“We have been focussing a lot on women’s football in our effort to bring glory to the sport. We know that one cannot improve without sufficient exposure. Hence, we have been stressing on exposure tours for the team. Till the time you play better teams, one cannot improve,” he added.
“You are a comparatively new squad. Utilise the exposure, and build up your career. The manner in which you have been playing has been commendable. You have to further move forward. It’s our duty to support you, and women’s football, and [we] will,” he said, while adding: “The changing character of Indian Football is reflected in your squad. I see many girls from the North-Eastern region of India in the team. The passion in the team is unmistakable. We want Indian football to be broad based.”
Ashalata Devi, the AIFF women's player of the year, said, "We are very thankful for the exposure trips which helped us immensely. We are a much more confident unit now. Playing in Spain, and Turkey helped us to play at a high intensity.”
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Looking ahead to the U-17 Women's World Cup in 2020, Patel said, “The U-17 Women’s World Cup will be a significant step to improve women’s football in India. You need to remember that the players who will play in the World Cup idolise you, and look up to you. It’s you who inspire them.”
According to Abhishek Yadav, director of the national teams, “Women’s team have come a long way in the last one year.”
He said, “They have put up exceptional performances, and I would like to congratulate them for their achievements. I am also very confident that the federation, and the government will extend all their support for the team for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup.”
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