Reigning Hero Indian Women’s League champions Gokulam Kerala FC begin their 2023 campaign against debutants East Bengal FC at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, April 26. The two teams are placed in Group A and will be looking to make a solid start to the season.
Hero Indian Super League side East Bengal are the first timers in Hero IWL. Under the tutelage of head coach Sujata Kar, the Red and Gold Brigade are determined to leave a good first impression.
"We formed a team with some girls from the Calcutta league, three from Manipur and two from Arunachal Pradesh. We’ve tried to form a good team and had a chance to train for 10 to 12 days. My target for the coming days is to go to the final round,” said Sujata on her club’s realistic targets for the season.
Asked about her opponents, Sujata said: “Gokulam are a very strong side and won the title last year. They have several national team players, who recently came back together from the camp. We will try to give our best performance against them.”
Gokulam successfully defended their title last season with a whopping 11 wins in 11 matches. Ghanaian forward Elshaddai Acheampong had a remarkable season for the side, finishing as the top goalscorer with 20 goals.
However, with the team shaping up differently for the new season, it remains to be seen whether Gokulam Kerala can replicate their previous performances.
Head coach Anthony Andrews said about their expectations and targets for the upcoming campaign: “The team is very different from the last season, but a few of our core players are still here and can lead from their previous experience. So, I believe we can and we hope to replicate the performance from last season or maybe better than that.”
Kahanni FC vs Mumbai Knights
In another Group A match, local challengers and debutants Kahaani FC and Mumbai Knights will clash at the Shahibaug Police Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Based out of Ahmedabad, Kahaani FC will be looking to bank on home advantage. Kahaani head coach Lalita Saini said: "This is the first time we are playing in the Hero IWL and we will give our best performance in all the matches."
On the other hand, the Maharashtra-based Mumbai Knights will also step onto the pitch for the first time in the Hero IWL. With a young head coach in Rutuja Gunwant at the helm, the ambitious side are up for the challenge.
Speaking about her side’s preparations for the first game, Gunwant said, "The team has been working really hard for a couple of months and we are ready to face the home team. I am very confident that we will put on a good show."
Mata Rukmani FC vs Misaka United FC
Mata Rukmani FC will be eyeing to capitalise on chances when they face Misaka United FC at the TransStadia. The team from Chhatisgarh is coming to participate in the Hero IWL after a short camp in Bastar, Chhatisgarh. Head Coach, Shantanu Ghosh, said, “We have respect for Misaka United as they were runners-up in the Karnataka state league. But we have strong faith in our teamwork.”
On the other hand, Misaka United FC Head Coach, Antony Francis Dias emphasised the fact that the average age of his squad is below 19 years.
Sports Odisha vs HOPS FC
Sports Odisha aims to finish among the top teams in Group A as they start their campaign against debutants HOPS FC from Delhi at the Shahibaug Police Stadium.
Sports Odisha had a promising performance in the last edition of the Hero IWL in Bhubaneswar when they finished in the top four with a young squad. Head coach, Paromita Sit, said they will go for a win against their opponents, HOPS FC.
“Since most of the players are from different states, they need some time to adjust to the playing philosophy,” Paromita said.
Matches between Gokulam Kerala FC and East Bengal FC and Kahanni FC and Mumbai Knights FC will be streamed live on Indian Football YouTube channel.