Women’s football has risen in both profile and popularity in the last few years. Significant steps are being taken in India to increase the level of female participation and create a women’s football ecosystem in India. These aims can be achieved through a strong football foundation.
The power of football is not just limited to the four corners of the field. Football has always been a great tool of empowerment for girls and women across India and the world. Football can be used to facilitate equal rights and opportunities for girls in the society. It is important to increase female participation in football, and sports in general, in India.
Bembem Devi, ‘the Durga of Indian football’, recently became the first woman footballer to be awarded the Padma Shri. With this accolade, women’s football has been duly recognized in India. The Indian national women’s team has continued to thrive against all the odds, and are currently ranked 57th in the world.
Aditi Chauhan, the current goalkeeper of the Indian women’s national team, had become the first Indian woman to play competitive football in England when she plied her trade for West Ham United in 2015. In January 2020, Indian national team striker Ngangom Bala Devi signed for Scottish giants Rangers FC in a historic move for Indian football. They are mainstays in the Indian squad and have subsequently become footballing idols for girls in India.
Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) is promoting the Hero ISL Children’s League, India’s premier football grassroots programme. The Hero ISL Children’s League is open to both boys and girls and takes place across four age-group categories i.e. Under-6, Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12.
The Shillong and Laitkseh edition of the Hero ISL Children’s League in Meghalaya is exclusively for girls. Girls are enthusiastically participating in the Girls League in these districts. Pa Bona, a participant from the JNS Girls School, has racked up 13 goals in the Shillong edition so far. Jenny Shullai from St. Mary’s Montessori School, has been attracting eyeballs in the U-6 category of the Girls League in Shillong.
The Girls League is not just causing waves in Meghalaya’s capital city, but also in Laitkseh. There is a good volume of female participation from this pocket in the West Khasi Hills district.
Even in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal, girls are turning out in numbers and standing toe to toe against their male counterparts. This goes onto show that girls are interested in playing football, and if given a platform they not only come out and play but are also hungry and determined to prove their worth on the football pitch.
The Hero U-17 Women’s Championship in Kalyani proved to be a successful prelude to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which will be hosted by India in November 2020. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) launched the Hero Indian Women’s League in 2017, the fourth edition of the league is currently ongoing in the Bangalore Football Stadium in Karnataka. These are steps in the right direction for Indian women’s football.
Women’s football is witnessing increased participation and is on the rise in India. It’s time for girls across the country to step out and fall in love with the beautiful game.