IWL 2022: Teenage debutants shine for Indian Arrows
While Gokulam Kerala FC maintained an all-around dominance in IWL 2022 with Sethu FC closely following, debutantes Indian Arrows took everyone by surprise.
The Indian Women's League (IWL) 2022 concluded with Gokulam Kerala FC retaining the coveted title with a 3-1 victory over Sethu FC in the ultimate title deciding encounter. While Gokulam Kerala FC maintained an all-around dominance in the league with Sethu FC closely following, debutantes Indian Arrows took everyone by surprise.
Seeing the success of Indian Arrows men's team which has produced top class talents like Dheeraj Singh, Akash Mishra and others, Indian Arrows Women's team was brought into light with the hope of providing regular game time to the players in the domestic league and nurture their aptitude to face the international competition.
The team primarily consisted of probables for FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup which was supposed to take place in 2020. With the tournament being postponed the players who are almost 19 now, form the U-19 team of the Nation and the players from SAFF U-19 Women's Championships also form the core of the team.
"It's very important that the Indian Arrows women's team has started to play in the IWL. It's basically a developmental team for the senior national team, something that is essential for the ecosystem," said Indian Arrows head coach Suren Chhetri.
"It will help them get the experience they need to prepare them for international football in the future," continued Chhetri. "The players will get the experience of playing against the best in the country and play against a new opponent every week, which will help them understand how to perform against different kinds of opponents. It will ultimately be good for the players and for the team as well."
Playing 11 games against top teams in Indian Women's Football, with prominent foreigners like Elshaddai, Sabrita Bhandar, Sabina Khatun, the teenage debutants did a decent job as they attained a mid table finish with 19 points from 11 games. The team has also been one of the least conceding teams with only nine goals conceded while scoring 25. The team also kept six clean sheets in the process. While the whole outfit was impressive as a unit, players like Priyangka Naorem and Apurna Narzary took everyone by surprise.
Being awarded the title of the IWL Emerging Player of Year, Priyangka Naorem continued to impress after becoming one of the most important players in the national outfit. Showing utmost talent in the national outfit, Priyangka was India's top scorer in the SAFF U-18 Women's Championships 2021 with four goals.
She was previously named the Most Valuable Player of the SAFF U-15 Women's Championship in 2015. Impressing coach Thomas Dennerby, she made her way in the AFC Women's Asian Cup but their stint was cut short due to adverse circumstances. Priyangka Naorem found her senior team goal in India's friendly against Egypt. The 19-year old also made her way into the top scorer list of IWL after scoring nine goals in 11 games along with teammate Apurna Narzary.
However, Naorem is the only second Indian player to score a super hat-trick in IWL alongside Manisha Kalyan of Gokulam Kerala.
With Priyangka Devi, Assam's Apurba Narzary has been one the best players the AIFF set up had to offer. Scoring nine goals in 11 games, Narzary also made it to the top scorer charts. Narzary bagged quite a lot of Hero of the Match awards for her match winning performances and her sublime hat-trick in Arrows' win against Odisha Police was a remembering worthy affair.
While the forwards have done a notable task, the skipper of the outfit Hemnam Shilky Devi has been outstanding for the team. Being one of the most experienced players in the squad, Shilky Devi held the hems of the team tightly. Although a defender, Shilky poses scoring abilities as well and it was her hat-trick that took India to SAFF U-15 Women's Championship finals in 2018.
Shilky is supposed to be the captain of the U-17 FIFA Women's World Cup that is scheduled in 2022. She was the youngest player in Thomas Dennerby's 15 member AFC Women's Asian Cup squad at just 16 years.
The Indian Arrows set up is expected to give longer time to the players as they develop them for the top tiered national and international competition. The set up with regular games and practices would help the players stay in disciplines as well as in practice as they prepare for upcoming Championship given the opportunities of women's football are really scarce. AIFF is trying to change the scenario with more international friendlies and tournaments.
However, the set up along with coach Thomas Dennerby, Suren Chhetri and Alex Ambrose are currently focusing on the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup that is scheduled between October 17-30.