AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 to see a first-ever all-female contingent of Team Liaison Officers
The Continent's premier women's national team competition will see 12 women assisting the teams from as many participating nations to ensure an enjoyable stay during their visit to India.
For Dr. Richa Kulkarni, who has travelled with international men's football teams as the only female official, the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 is an "unimaginable" opportunity to inspire women to step into the sports industry.
She – like every other member of the contingent – was delighted to learn that an all-female contingent of Team Liaison Officers (TLOs) will assume responsibility during the upcoming AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 for liaising, coordinating and communicating between the participating nations and the organizers – the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Local Organising Committee (LOC).
"It makes a huge difference having women in leadership roles, this will inspire and motivate other women to enter into sports industry by knowing that a woman has the capacity and the confidence to carry out the work impeccably," added Dr. Kulkarni, a physiotherapist who has served the Timor-Leste junior and senior national teams in FIFA and AFC national team competitions.
In what is slated to be a historic first, the Continent's premier women's national team competition, which kicks off on 20th January 2022, will see 12 women assisting the teams from as many participating nations with logistical support, daily schedules, team requirements and other requests to ensure an enjoyable stay during their visit to India.
In keeping with the vision for the tournament to provide more opportunities to women, the AFC and LOC received an overwhelming response from enthusiastic and experienced women across a large range of professional domains; and the selected contingent is representative of the same diversity.
"Creating more opportunities for women has always been a part of our vision for the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022. Thereby, it makes us proud to have an all-women contingent of Team Liaison Officers who have been selected on merit. The 12 women represent a wide spectrum of professional domains and cultures, which adds to the diversity of this wonderful tournament," said LOC Project Director, Nandini Arora.
Representing the diversity of the TLO contingent in a microcosm is Heshu Kajiiloni Kricheni, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Sports Management from Seoul and has previously worked in athletics, boxing and tennis. She believes employing women in organizing major tournaments will create a "good professional women workforce" and consequently help overcome a major challenge in sport.
"In today's world, women are on par with men when it comes to decision making and leadership roles in various fields such as politics, music, business and social work," said Kajiiloni, who has pursued human rights and gender studies as a part of her academics. "Having women in decision making and leadership roles in tournaments, especially women's competitions will have a direct impact in bringing progressive changes to achieve gender equality in sports – a topic that has been widely discussed in sports," she added.
Lending a fresh and interesting perspective to gender equality is Upasana Ranjib. "I believe women and men are perfect equals in the field of management and just function on two different software towards achieving the same end goal," said Ms. Ranjib who has been a national level swimmer apart from specializing in gender studies. "And partaking in sports – management or otherwise – gives women a more confident perception of herself, which I believe is the first step to having society as a whole start to change perception of women's abilities and role in society."
An athlete turned Sports Management student, she believes attentive listening, empathy and respectful dialogue to be the most important acquirements from her previous experiences that will help her in best performing the given role during the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022.
Communication is indeed central to the role of a TLO during major international tournaments and among other responsibilities, an essential upside for any TLO is to speak the local language of the team they are assigned.
"Everyone prefers to speak in their mother tongue, especially in moments of intense emotion, because it is difficult to find equivalent expressions in a foreign language," says Saranya Shandilya who has completed her Master's in Chinese before highlighting the importance of language in feeling comfortable. "Hence, it is essential to provide the players with an amicable environment when playing in a foreign land."
Apart from Hindi and English, the TLO contingency can speak 11 different languages. These include Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Mao, Angami, Russian, Hebrew, German, French, Spanish and Urdu.
Gauri Agarwal, a youngster who is transitioning to management from being a ranked junior tennis player, believes such opportunities are tools for facilitating equality. "Sports is an empowering force. I firmly believe that more such opportunities would make room for realizations whereby women would realize their potential in sports, further facilitating equality."
This AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022A first-ever will also provide more opportunities to players to live their dream as five teams, along with co-hosts Australia, from the tournament, can qualify for the FIFA Women's World 2023 and a further two may make it to the quadrennial event in Australia/New Zealand through the FIFA Inter-Confederation Playoffs