The Indian women's national football team has made tremendous progress in the last two years, head coach Maymol Rocky said on Tuesday while addressing an international virtual conference. The coaching conference was organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and she was speaking on the topic 'Women’s Football In India'.
"Our journey has just started," Maymol, who was appointed head coach in 2017, said. "Thanks to the increased support from the AIFF and Government of India the women's team has made tremendous progress in the last two years. We made plans - both short and long-term -- for which we have received the best possible backing in every way."
In November 2018, the Indian women's team made it to the second round of the Olympic qualifiers for the first time in its history. Terming the success as a "turning point", Maymol talked about the increased number of matches and tournaments played by her side in 2019 and the positive impact it has had.
"Since the last two years, we have built a strong unit, with a majority of players being very young. We have got a lot of exposure -- more camps, more matches and more preparation time. We have played many competitive matches against higher-ranked opposition. None of the players had played as many games as they did in 2019," Maymol informed.
"Our first camp was almost four months long and we were provided with all the necessary facilities and equipment, such as good hotel stay, good training pitch and specially-designed kits for women players." Maymol spoke in detail about the number of matches played by the team against a number of quality teams, beginning with friendlies against Hong Kong and Indonesia at the start of 2019, which saw India register four wins in as many games.
Our journey has just started, says 🗣️ @maymolrocky at International Virtual Coaching Conference 🎤💻
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 29, 2020
It was followed by hosting the four-nation Hero Gold Cup in Bhubaneswar and playing a tournament in Turkey, which included a match against Romania. She said the team received a "big boost in confidence" after these matches. In March, India were crowned SAFF champions for the fifth time, defeating hosts Nepal 3-1 in a tense final and came close to getting past the second round of the Olympic qualifiers, before losing out on goal difference to Myanmar despite an unbeaten campaign with two wins and a draw.
The Indian team then finished second runners-up at the COTIF Cup in Spain and played two away friendlies each against higher-ranked Uzbekistan and Vietnam, after which they successfully defended their South Asian Games gold medal in Nepal. Last year also the Indian team jump up the FIFA ranking charts to 57, which improved to 55 in March this year.
With women's football being the central theme, the day also witnessed a presentation by Japanese U-18 women's team assistant coach Yuiko Konno about 'Pathway to reach the top & steps taken to sustain' by the Japan Football Association. Japan remains the only nation to win the FIFA Women's World Cup in all three categories. "Talking about how the Japan national team reached the top and sustain its position, there is no magic formula or secret. What we have been doing is very simple," she said.
Yuiko highlighted the four factors of their development plan -- player development, national team, coach education and grassroots football. "We place significant emphasis on these four factors. They are closely related to each other and we always think of them as one unit."