After noting ignorance towards girls, Lord's FA carves path for women's football development
We delved into the inspiring story of Lord's Football Academy, the champions of Kerala Women's League.
Lord's Football Academy, an old football club with a long-standing legacy, recently transformed into a comprehensive academy for boys and girls, boasting of senior teams for both men and women.
The women's team, in particular, achieved great success in their inaugural season, clinching the state league title, despite tough competition from two formidable opponents in Gokulam Kerala and Kerala Blasters FC. This helped them make their debut in the Indian Women's League 2023 season.
Originally founded in 1968 as a local academy under the name of 'Young Man Athletic Association (YMAA), the outfit went through a makeover in 2021 and came under the ownership of Derrick Dcouth.
While the team's maiden season in the country's top division for women's football might not be going as planned, it was Derrick himself who birthed the idea behind forming a women's team and academy at Lord's FA.
"I noticed female children feeling left out during trials and trainings. The idea stemmed from two kids I met in a similar situation. My own kids also love football, which made me understand the passion even more," Dcouth told The Bridge.
While the above inspiration draws a bleak, yet realistic picture of women's football in India, Derrick's passion for the same sows seeds of hope for a rather promising future.
With limited opportunities for ambitious female footballers, Derrick, driven by his intent to promote equal opportunities for women in sports, stresses the need for increased investment in women's football in the country.
"I took over the reins of Lords FA about three years ago. It wasn't easy, but we aimed to create a conducive environment. Now, we have U-11, U-13, U-15, U-17 and senior teams for both men and women. We are yet to develop a particular coaching philosophy but we aspire to build Lord's as a brand and create a unique footballing philosophy for ourselves," he explained.
Initial bumps in the road
For any club aspiring to make a mark in women's football in India, barriers and problems abound naturally. The path for Lord's FA hasn't been any different.
"I do not just see myself as an owner. I am intricately involved in every aspect, watching every single game, and taking note of every error we make. After losing to Gokulam Kerala in the first game by five goals, we meticulously analyzed every aspect and emerged victorious in the finals, putting five goals past them," Dcouth added.
"Despite initial setbacks, the team displayed remarkable resilience and teamwork, highlighting the importance of a winning mindset and the determination to overcome adversity."
The lack of sponsorship and financial support is a significant issue that needs addressing, opines Derrick. "All India Football Federation and the government must aid football clubs and academies. Our women's team has a better chance of playing the World Cup before the men's team."
"If they provide some subsidy and telecast the Indian Women's League properly, not just on YouTube, it will help us more. It will also attract more viewership and inspire the younger generation to take up football as a career option," an honest Derrick said.
It has been a challenging journey for Lord's in the Indian Women's League, managing to win only one game so far. However, Derrick is confident of the team's capabilities and resilience.
"We are placed in a tough group, but that is no excuse. There have been some unfair refereeing calls against us, and lack of experience in some areas is also a challenge. But we will fight and win the remaining games."
Road ahead for Lord's
The long-term plan of Lord's FA and Derrick Dcouth is ambitious, to say the least, but not impossible to achieve. "I want to nurture 50 kids, 25 from Kerala and 25 from other states, aged 11 or 12, keeping them with us until they are at least 20, without selling them to any other clubs. My dream is to contribute to Indian football, and see India play at the World Cup someday. I also hope to see Lord's in the Indian Super League in the future, although it's not an easy task, but we will work hard for it."
Derrick emphasizes the significance of parental support for their children's dreams, having experienced unsupportive ones himself while dealing with children interested in the sport.
"Parents need to understand that football will not ruin their children, but overusing mobiles will. Football helps build mental and physical strength, and teaches children to overcome challenges. We had some kids who were restricted by their parents to focus only on studies. We helped them understand the importance of football training and restarted their training."
Dcouth also expressed his contentment with the recent decision taken by the All India Football Federation to establish a minimum salary for female footballers. However, he also expressed his apprehension about the clubs that lack sufficient financial support.
"The absence of sponsorships and funding poses a significant challenge. There are individuals who run academies and clubs based on their passion for the sport. I fear that it may be difficult for them to sustain themselves in the long term," he commented.
Concluding his remarks, Derrick conveyed a message to football enthusiasts across the country. "Kerala was previously renowned for its football prowess. Nevertheless, our performance has declined in recent times. We must strive to regain our former glory. If your children exhibit an interest in football, please encourage and support them in pursuing it."