I am a little worried about the impact of the pandemic on our game in India because we are seeing how women’s football the world over has been affected. Recently, the English Football Association (FA) terminated the Women’s Super League in the UK. It shows that a developed country with that kind of set up is also not immune. The women’s game is not on the same level as the men’s globally. So, individual countries can and have been making their decisions. But a country like the UK...their football systems are looked up to by so many of us in India, thanks to the Premier League. In that light, this decision is going to have a ripple impact of sorts. If Premier League clubs that have so much money can’t put some into the women’s league, it shows a lack of interest and solidarity. It sets the wrong example.
FIFPro (the representative body of thousands of professional footballers) has also come out with a study that states that women’s football is going to take a hit. So obviously, India being a developing country where the women’s game is just rising, I do fear the game is going to take a back seat.
I am not sure what’s going to happen with the Indian Women’s League next season. I was very hopeful that with this year’s win with Gokulam Kerala FC (being the only I-League or ISL club to put up a women’s side), other sides would be inspired and motivated to do the same. However, we are seeing the issues men’s teams are facing with signings and salaries. That will have an impact on us, too.
As for international football, with how things are right now, I think it’s a more long-term resumption process. It is not a priority now.
Football is after all a contact sport. With the Under-17 World Cup in India coming up, I am sure there are positives there for the women’s game, but generally, about matches and playing time on grounds, things are very uncertain at the moment.
We have not gotten any communication from the federation about it either. No matter what, our health comes first. It should not be compromised.
So, if we look at a return at whatever point, we should have proper testing, proper hygiene. We are looking to FIFA for a proper protocol, at least whenever international football looks to return. The pandemic has changed things. We are staring at a new normal, so, we have to rally our systems and processes around it.
As told to Lavanya Lakshmi Narayanan