The fourth edition of the Indian Women’s League (IWL) kicked off here in Bengaluru on Friday with two goal-feasts. On the opening day, which saw a doubleheader, Kangchup Road Young Physical & Sports Association (KRYPSHA FC) beat Kickstart FC 4-0 in the first match while defending champions Sethu FC drubbed Kolhapur City FC 5-0 in the second.
The action on the pitch was enthralling, to say the least, with two heavyweight teams producing dominating performances. The likes of KRYPSHA’s Dangmei Grace, Sethu FC’s Ashalata Devi, K Sumithra and Sandhya stole the show on the field. After all, the IWL is the biggest platform for women’s football in the country. Indeed, since it’s inception, the league has consistently supplied a steady of influx of players to the national setup. Even last season, players like Ritu Rani, Karishma Shirvoikar, Anushka Samuel were called up for the national camp following their performances in the IWL.
With just 12 teams, maybe, three-21-day affair is not the ‘ideal’ league, but still it’s a competition were women footballers can showcase their skills, something that was unheard of even five years ago. Indian women’s national team coach, Maymol Rocky, is of the same opinion.
“For now, I am pleased that at least we are having a league, this is the fourth edition. Most of the countries don’t even have a women’s league,” she told a group of reporters.
“I have been saying this from the start that the girls should play more. If you see the last few months, we (national team) have started playing more international matches and which has been helping us perform better,” she added.
Asked how many matches a footballer should ideally be playing in a season, Maymol, who became the first female head coach of the Indian football team, explained why a bigger league with more teams is the need of the hour.
“In my opinion, in a year, a professional player has to play at least 40-60 competitive, high-intensity matches. Those cannot include school or college level matches, no. Right now, the league is small, the number of teams is not a lot, and we are having to compensate because of that. This is the reason why the national team is having a lot of camps and a lot of exposure trips,” the 39-year-old said.
“Having said that, the IWL is the biggest platform that the girls are getting. If anything, the league has helped in the growth of women’s football in the country,” she continued before going on to elaborate the change the league has brought with it.
“You know, I see more young footballers following Dalima’s (Chibber) footsteps and going to foreign countries. It’s an excellent opportunity for young girls who want to pursue their studies and play football at a professional level at the same time. And, eventually, it’s going to help the national team,” the coach said.
Maymol also shed some light on the national team’s near-future plans before signing off. “We are meeting with the senior team again in May and we are going for an exposure tour in June. Whatever matches we play going forward will be against better, higher-ranked teams, or we will be playing against foreign clubs who are superior to us. The idea is to play against better opposition and work on developing our skills and improve overall,” she concluded.