In its centenary year, Kolkata giants East Bengal are on course to take a massive step towards the development of women's football in the country. As per a report in The Bengal Story, the club is set to form a women’s football team and take part in the oldest women's football league in India, the Calcutta Women's Football League (CWFL) which will take place in the third week of December.
East Bengal had previously taken part in this competition, along with rivals Mohun Bagan, and even won the title back in 2001. However, after a few seasons, the women's team was discontinued by both the clubs.
The Indian Football Association (IFA) – the chief footballing body of West Bengal – had requested asked the three major clubs in Kolkata, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, to prepare their own women’s teams in a bid to improve the overall quality of the league as well as to attract fans.
According to the report, the first club to have responded has been East Bengal. Not only that, the Red and Golds have already appointed renowned footballer Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, who has previously served as the captain of the Indian national women’s football team and represented the country in several international competitions, as their coach. In fact, the trial and selection procedure have been conducted over the past couple of weeks with over 150 women participating.
“It is very encouraging for women footballers if the big clubs come forward to have their own women’s teams. I hope in future, more and more women will be interested in playing football too,” Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar was quoted saying.
East Bengal secretary Raja Guha also sounded optimistic about the future as he said, “Earlier too, we had a women’s football team that had participated in the league. After a gap of several years, we are putting together a team again. I hope things will be even better in future.”
On one side where East Bengal is in the process of forming its women’s football team, the other two big clubs, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting Club, have not shown any enthusiasm so far with lack of funds being cited as the main issue, the report added. As of now, the participants of this year's CWFL are Dipti Sangha, Sribhumi Sporting Club, Kolkata Police, West Bengal Police, SSB Battalion, Chandni Sporting, Maitri Samsad, Manik Football Coaching, among others.
With the U17 Women's FIFA World Cup set to be held in India in 2020, it remains to be seen whether the enthusiasm around women’s football increases due to the participation of a club of East Bengal's stature.