The ongoing Indian Women's League (IWL) has witnessed a pool of talented women footballers from all over the country. The tournament is gradually making its mark to pave a big change in the women's footballing ecosystem in the country. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is further planning to identify the talent and groom them, who could be the gems for Indian football in the coming days.
Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC have dominated the tournament. They sit at the top of the table with 21 points from seven matches, which is also the case for Sethu FC Madurai. However, Gokulam Kerala stand way ahead in the race with their massive goal difference of 45. Their Ghanaian forward Elshaddai Acheampong has been the top scorer in the league with 13 goals to her name.
Despite Kerala's dominant show, there have been several players from different teams who have impressed us with their performances. We, at The Bridge, try to find out the top 5 Indian players emerging out of the IWL:
Manisha Kalyan (Forward, Gokulam Kerala FC):
The 20-year-old Gokulam Kerala FC forward is the second-highest goalscorer in the IWL with 11 goals to her name in just seven appearances. Being awarded the Emerging Female Footballer of the Year in 2020-21, Kalyan lived up to her reputation as she kept on delivering top-notch performances. Scoring 19 goals in only 23 appearances for Kerala, Kalyan held her form in the Indian outfit as well. She scored a goal on her senior debut against UAE in their 4-1 win. She shot to the limelight when she scored India's solitary goal against Brazil in an international friendly. Kalyan's performances have evoked interest from a lot of foreign clubs as well and reports suggest that Kalyan would soon be travelling for her trials.
Pyari Xaxa (Forward, Odisha Police)
Pyari Xaxa (Source: AIFF)
Pyari Xaxa has been one of the most impressive players of the campaign. The 2015 AIFF Emerging Footballer of the Year and 2021 Fan's Favorite Footballer of the year has been in a red hot form for Odisha this time. The forward scored six goals in seven appearances with a hat-trick against ARA FC. Xaxa's performances have earned her the Player of the Match title more than once in her seven appearances.
Dalima Chhiber (Defender, Gokulam Kerala FC)
Dalima Chhiber (Source: Indian Football/Twitter)
While Gokulam Kerala FC have scored 47 goals this season, they have conceded only twice, keeping five clean sheets. As much as the credit to that goes to skipper Aditi Chauhan, it would not be fair to say that it was possible without a player like Dalima Chhiber who put herself on the line in spearheading the side's defence and keep themselves in the title race. The 2016 South Asian Games Gold Medal winner has also plied her trade in Canadian West University's Premier Division with Manitoba Bisons.
Apurna Narzary ( Forward, Indian Arrows)
Apurna Narzary (Source: Indian Arrows/Twitter)
The SAFF U-19 Women's Championship fame Apurna Narzary has played an integral role in the maiden campaign for the Arrows. Scoring six goals in seven appearances for the debutants, Narzary bagged two Hero of the Match awards, one of them being for her remarkable hat-trick in the 4-0 win against Odisha Police. Narzary has been extremely proactive among the front three of her team keeping the opponents' goalkeepers busy all the time.
Sweety Devi (Defender, Kickstart FC):
Sweety Devi (Source: AIFF)
The 22-year-old defender is projected as the most suitable partner in defence for Indian National team skipper and Gokulam Kerala defender Ashalata Devi. Sweety's strong aerial presence and freekick-taking ability make her stand out from others. She scored her first goal at the age of 14 in AFC U-19 Women's Championship Qualifying round against Lebanon. Since making her senior team debut in 2018, Sweety Devi has 22 appearances to her name along with two goals.
Although the aforementioned players have been the most impressive in their stints so far in the campaign, players like Anju Tamang, Dangmei Grace, Parameshwari and Roja Devi are having a campaign worth remembering, while pushing their respective sides forward.