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"Wherever an environment for Women’s Football doesn’t exist, we must create one"

Wherever an environment for Women’s Football doesn’t exist, we must create one

Press Releases

Published: 28 Oct 2018 10:57 AM GMT

Earlier in July this year, FC Goa became the second Indian Super League (ISL) side to launch a women's team after FC Pune City. Before that, the club had been widely involved in developing the sport across both genders through its sister organisation, the Forca Goa Foundation.

The Bridge reached out to Derrick Pereira, technical director of the FC Goa franchise, for more clarity on the thought behind and the development since, of the women's side.

Q1. Did establishing a Women's team turn out to be a challenge? Or did it feel like the natural 'next step' in FC Goa's evolution? 

FC Goa as a club has always strived to give equal opportunities to footballers, and the club has always contemplated fielding a women’s team.  However, with little precedence in this regards in India, it took us some time to form the team. 

After a fair few discussions internally, we felt that fielding a team in the GFA Vedanta Women’s League would be a step in the right direction. That said we didn’t have as much time as we would have ideally liked to set up the team, which led to many initial challenges in the team’s formation. 

The club took the challenges in its stride though and pulled through to help get us registered for the league and take the first step in developing our own Women’s Development Program for FC Goa. 

Also read: The jump from being a footballer to becoming a referee is a little unconventional | By Maria Rebello

Q2. Why did you feel that this was the right time to launch the women's team? 

The Vedanta Women’s League, as well as the Indian Women’s League, started a couple of years ago. Before that, there weren’t many opportunities for a Women’s Team to compete. 

Last year we, as a club, were appreciated for our playing style and made a conscious decision to create a comprehensive footballing philosophy. We thus train and develop players in a certain way for our first team right from the grassroots level. 

Now having defined how we want to play, we feel it is time to expand our program and make it more inclusive. Starting a Women’s Team helped us make our program so and moving forward we hope to see our women playing the same style of football as our men’s team. 

Q3. What was the decision-making process behind it? Did you take inspiration from some of the pre-established successful Women's teams (Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona, Lyon, Wolfsburg etc.)

We didn’t take much inspiration from other established successful women’s teams. We did feel their existence helped us build a case for why it made sense for FC Goa to launch its own women’s team and development program. But the fact is as we mentioned earlier, some people within our organisation had wanted to see a women’s program. 

Many of them felt inspired by the ranking of the Indian Women’s National Team. The truth is the women’s team is much better placed to make it to the World Cup than the men’s team is; in the not so distant future. 

We would love to see an Indian team compete in the World Cup one day, and if we could help get us thereby helping to develop players to represent India in the future that would be one of the ultimate success stories for us. 

We felt good about the success we had as a club last season and thought it was an excellent time to build off the same and start setting even more ambitious goals for the team. 

Q4. What are some of your short-term and long-term goals? 

Our first short-term goal would be to complete our first run in the Vedanta Women’s League here in Goa. Beginning the Women’s Team made us take an assessment of the state of women’s football in Goa and made us realise that we need to have a comprehensive development strategy for the girls and women much as we have for the men’s team.

Building off of this, we decided to pen down a development strategy that starts right from including girls more in our grassroots programs and strategy all the way up to continuing to develop our 1st Team. Our second short-term Goal would be to finalise that development strategy for our Women’s Program and then to start actioning it from the beginning of 2019. Within the next 5-10 years, we would like to have a comprehensive girls football program that matches that of our boys including Girls Academy Teams and Development Squads that allows us to help develop homegrown players for our 1st Team.

Long term we would love to help make Goa’s Women’s Team National competitive and to see the Indian Women’s Team make it to the World Cup with a number of the women representing India coming from Goa and our development program. 

Q5. How did you select the players and coaches for the team? 

The GFA Vedanta Women’s League set disobliging rules around the player selection for the new clubs entering the league this year. We were one of three new clubs to join the league, so we had to form a team from within the draw. The other five teams who were continuing from last year were each allowed to retain eight players from the 1st season. 

The three new teams drew lots for who could select players first. Players were designated into groups based on skill level, and each side got to choose players in rounds until each team had a full squad to play with. 

Our Technical Director chose the coaches who would manage the Women’s Team. Coaches Naresh Virnodkar and Sugitish Mandrekar have taken responsibility for training and coaching the team. Through proper training and coaching, we have seen tremendous improvements in the girls and are incredibly proud of how the team is coming together and performing. 

Q6. How do you intend to keep the Women's team active and competitive in an environment which still hasn't gotten used to local football, let alone local women's teams? 

Wherever an environment for Women’s Football doesn’t exist, we must create one. This is exactly what we hope to help address through our comprehensive grassroots and women’s development strategies and programs. 

Three years ago there wasn’t a National or State League for women, now there is. This alone is proof that things are changing and progressing forward. To help encourage these developments, we as a club must now do our part to support the inclusion of women in the game. To do this, women must be given opportunities not just as players, but as coaches, referees, and administrators to help make the sport more equal.

Q7. Equality in sports is a big issue. Now, with both the Men's and Women's teams under the FC Goa brand, how do you intend to tackle this issue? 

Equality is a big issue in sports which is one of the main reasons why we felt it was important to launch our own Women’s Team. Equality means having equal opportunities for people from both genders. The only way we could address this inequality was by starting our Women’s Development Program thus giving girls from Goa more opportunities to play the game we all love. Our Women’s Development Program looks to create opportunities for girls to develop as players, coaches, and referees.

We believe that only once women have representation and a voice in every aspect of the game will we be able to see true equality in football.

Q8. The Indian Women's football team is ranked 60th in the world and yet almost completely ignored. Do you think establishing more Women's team will help the national team increase their fan base?

In many ways, the ranking you just mentioned was in part what inspired us as a club to start our Women’s Football Development Program. We definitely hope that many more opportunities for women to compete and play will arise in the years to come. We also hope that as you start to see more women on the field, it will inspire the next generation of girls that they could have a future in the game and this in turn will help inspire a bigger fan base for the Indian Women’s Football Team. 

Also read: Life and times of Ngangom Bala Devi, Captain – Indian Women’s Football team
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