The Indian Premier League certainly influenced the functioning of sports in the country on a massive positive scale. After the introduction of Indian Super League on par with IPL for men’s football, it’s time for women as a brand new league ‘Indian Women’s League’ (IWL) has been kicked off recently.
The history of Women’s League
Since 1991, the women’s football championship is being conducted for the states to contest each other but it is not a league. It is the women’s equivalent to Men’s Santosh Trophy. However, in the late 1990s, a few states had taken the initiative to start a women’s league. It is unknown whether they’ve succeeded in launching them.
Fast forward to 2014, when the women’s team worked brilliantly during the SAAF women’s championship, a league for women’s has been called for, to strengthen the grassroots in the country. When the matter started, the ISL teams Pune FC and Bengaluru FC expressed interest in joining the women’s league. After a series of discussions and workshops, the league finally kicked off on 28th January 2017.
About the IWL
This league has six teams namely, FC Alkhapura (Haryana), Jeppiaar Institute of Technology FC (Puducherry), Aizwal FC (Mizoram), FC Pune City (Maharashtra), Rising Student Club (Odisha) and Eastern Sporting Union (Manipur). Each of these teams would play in a round-robin format with the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals. The 2-week tournament is being held in the national capital at the Ambedkar Stadium. The final is to be played on Feb 14th.
The problems with the stadium
The Inaugural women’s league also has its negatives. The Ambedkar stadium couldn’t stand a chance against the unseasonal rainfall. The failure of the drainage system is quite evident as there are gutters all around the playing area. The tournament has to go on, however. The first two days of the league saw players running on this poor pitch with unintentional and regular falls. One of the senior players for India, Oinam Devi shrugs off that this has been a habit.
The positive side
Speaking of the inaugural season of IWL, the AIFF president, Praful Patel said that this would not only encourage youngsters to take up football but also improve the standard of the game in the country. Speaking to the Hindustan Times, he continued, “Our women’s team is ranked 54th in the world, which is higher than the men’s at 129. That means for the FIFA world cup in 2019, if we make the right effort, our women’s team will have an outside chance of qualifying for the world cup before the men. This is itself a huge achievement”.
Patel concluded that his aim is to expand the league to 16 teams covering the width and breadth of the country to bring out more talent. He has also requested the national clubs to encourage and support a women’s team.
The trophy was unveiled on 24th January 2017 by the Union Sports Minister, Vijay Goel and the guest of honour was the Rio Olympics bronze medalist, Sakshi Malik. The AIFF also presented Rs 25 lakh prize money to the team that won SAF football championship. Skipper Bala Devi was delighted. “It will motivate the players to carry on the good work beyond the regional level,” she said.