From Monalisa Barua Mehta to Hima Das to Lovlina Borgohain, individual sportswomen have brought accolades to Assam for decades, but when it comes to two of the most popular team sports in the country, the girls have not been able to attain similar heights. Assam's women players are now honing their skills in cricket and football. Among others, Assam Cricket Association (ACA) has been working on promoting women's cricket at the grassroots level and ensuring exposure for the players.
"Conducting training camps is not enough. Our players must be exposed to competition and while the COVID-19 pandemic has been a deterrent in the last two years, the ACA is trying its best to give maximum exposure to them," secretary of the association Devajit Saikia told PTI. The ACA, he said, has started the first-ever inter-district women's tournament from this year and named it after freedom fighter Kanaklata Barua. The tournament was played in an inter-zonal category last year, but was upgraded to the inter-district level in 2022. The ACA secretary said, "The inter-district tournament encouraged the young girls to play the game in a more systematic and professional manner."
The ACA also organised a T20 Challengers' Trophy among six teams, that have been formed with best players from the 18 districts that had participated in the Kanaklata Barua tournament, Saikia said. "The T20 Challengers Trophy turned out to be a very keenly contested tourney as the six teams were evenly balanced. "Our players cannot perform if they don't have match practice and we cannot concentrate only on men's team. We have promising girls and we want to ensure adequate support and exposure for them," the ACA secretary said. The Assam women's seniors have till now been rated as average, both as a team and as individual, another ACA official said.
In football, the Guwahati City Football Club (GCFC) team is set to be the first ever club from Assam to play in the women's top Division Football. Their senior women's team will start the campaign in the qualifying round of the Indian Women's League (IWL), scheduled to be held from April 1 at the Dr Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi. The team will take on Youth Welfare Club (Manipur), ARA FC (Gujarat) and Golazo FC (Himachal Pradesh) to earn a spot in the Hero Indian Women's League main round.
The teams with the highest points shall become eligible for the main round for which state champions have already qualified. As Assam did not organise state women's league, GCFC was nominated for the qualifiers by the Assam Football Association (AFA) as per the rules of All India Football Federation (AIFF), GCFC director Siddhartha Sankar Deka said. Thanking AFA for nominating the club, GCFC director Kaustab Chakraborty urged it to organise state women's and men's league from next season. "From the next season, there will be no nominations from the states unless state leagues are organised," Chakraborty said.
Head coach Bidhan Das said the team mostly comprises U18 local girls and the objective will be to gain experience so that they can win the state league next season to get direct qualification for the IWL. GCFC director Deka said as the club has been nominated, it has to bear the travel and accommodation expenses until it qualifies for the final round. "We have approached the state government and we hope that the government will help the club in this regard. "Several footballers have been part of the national team as well as other teams playing in different national-level leagues, but the performance of the state as a unit has been lagging, mostly owing to lack of practice and we hope it changes for the better soon," Deka told PTI.