A Sorry State: 5 Indian Women's Football League Teams Have Not Held a Practice Session in 3 Months
News18.com takes a look at the current activity and state of all the 12 teams that took part in Indian Women's League 2019 in Ludhiana.
Manipur Police SC and Sethu FC had played the IWL 2019 final on May 22, which was their last competitive game. (Photo Credit: AIFF)
New Delhi: It has been a little over three months since the Indian Women's League (IWL) 2019 ended in Ludhiana with Sethu FC defeating Manipur Police SC 3-1 in the final on May 22 to emerge champions.
With Indian veteran Bala Devi firing in goals at will and all the national team players in action, this year's IWL received quite a bit of attention. However, how has it been for these teams after that 18-day league?.
Away from the glare, women footballers are hardly getting meaningful competitive football. Since the end of the IWL, none of the 12 participating teams have had any major competitive football. Five of them have not even had the chance to practice together as a team.
Here is News18.com taking a look at the status of each of the teams that played in IWL 2019.
BARODA FOOTBALL ACADEMY
Baroda Football Academy finished last in Group B after losing all the five matches they played in the 18-day league. The girls of the academy, however, have been in regular practice and have been able to play a few friendly matches organised by the academy. Baroda Football Academy hold practice sessions for the players every day in the evening under floodlights since most of the girls attend school or college.
In the past three months, Baroda have played against other clubs in the state of Gujarat and they also had an NGO come from Delhi for a friendly match. Apart from these friendly games, Baroda have been a part of an inter-district tournament that took place in the end of June.
"Our club has only one sponsor, who provides us with the kits, and because of that we are unable to spend on getting more exposure and have to be content with the matches we are able to set up for ourselves. Some of the girls here are extremely talented but they do not get the opportunity and platform to showcase their talent and that is where we lag behind," Tarannum Shaikh, a player and one of the coaches at Baroda Football Academy, told News18.com.
BANGALORE UNITED FC
Bangalore United FC were in the same group as Baroda and finished second-last after they won one game of the five they played. The club has not yet been able to hold a proper combined training session for its players and ever since the IWL, the girls have been attending their colleges, where they have been taking care of their own fitness and training.
The club's women's team plays against the boys of the same club every 15 days in order to get some game time. Since Bangalore United FC do not operate as a professional club, they do not ask the girls to come for practice every day and whoever is free on a given day just drops by. This past Saturday, the club started a camp where all the players were asked to join.
The club is currently waiting to know the dates of Karnataka Super League and IWL qualfiers in order to begin proper training with the team.
CENTRAL SSB WOMEN'S
Since the end of the IWL, no women's football league or tournament has been held in Bengal because of which the Central SSB Women's team has not had much practice or proper game time.
SSB were one of the semi-finalists of IWL 2019 and they had lost to eventual winners Sethu FC.
Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is one of India's Central Armed Police Forces and the girls have rarely been able to practice together. SSB's star recruit for the IWL, Sangita Basfore, has been busy with the national team.
Alakhpura is a village in Haryana and the people here fund FC Alakhpura on their own enabling their girls to pursue football. Alakhpura had finished last in Group A in IWL 2019, having won one of the five matches they played.
Since FC Alakhpura is a club based in the Alakhpura High School, the girls train regularly in morning and evening sessions and the club began a camp for senior nationals from August 19.
Since the IWL, Alakhpura have not had any proper competitive game even though they try and organise matches against other clubs from Haryana. The girls of FC Alakhpura also play against the boys of the village every now and then.
Alakhpura did not participate in the ongoing Punjab Women's League and they told News18.com that they did not play in order to focus on preparing for the girls for senior nationals.
FC KOLHAPUR CITY
FC Kolhapur City have been trying to train a few girls in order for them to remain in practice but a number of the players they sourced from other states have left to play for their states. With the dates of the IWL qualifiers not out yet, Kolhapur City have not been training the girls regularly under a system.
"AIFF is working on increasing the teams so they have not specified the format for the qualifiers and the league yet so we have no clarity," Amit Pawar, FC Kolhapur City Head Coach, told News18.com.
GOKULAM KERALA FC
IWL 2019 semi-finalists Gokulam Kerala FC have had no competitive match since the end of the league and have had no practice as a team either. However for the upcoming season, Gokulam have started scouting for players locally and are holding a small camp in Kannur region of Kerala.
Gokulam Kerala coach Priya PV said that after the team's performance in the third season, the president of the club is more serious and they are planning to retain some players from the previous season and add good local talent.
HANS WOMEN FC
Hans Women FC, who finished third in Group A with two wins from five games, do not train and practice systematically as a club. Most of their team comes out of Jesus and Mary College so the girls practice in the college grouds. Since the IWL, they have not had any competitive game as Delhi has not seen any tournament or competition for women.
Hans Women FC believe that no other women's club is of the same level as them and hence to avoid the chances of injury, they refrain from playing competitive games against other clubs.
Among the 30-35 players that Hans Women FC has, they divide themselves into two teams and play practice games.
"Football Delhi has not been able to organise any tournament for the senior girls so there is a general lack of competition. Tournaments are mentioned in the calendar every year but nothing happens," Nagendra Singh, owner of Hans Women FC, said.
MANIPUR POLICE SC
IWL 2019 finalists Manipur Police SC have not played any tournament since the completion of the IWL.
Being a department team, coach Surmala Chanu trains the women every day from 7.30am to 10am but apart from that, the lack of tournaments means the team hardly gets any game time.
A number of senior members of the team, including Bala Devi, have been with the Indian national team but the rest have only been in regular practice.
News18.com reported a few days ago that Panjim Footballers are considering disbanding their team due to expenses and management issues.
Panjim were the Goa state champions last season courtesy of which they played in the IWL but they are yet to pay match fees to their players for the matches the girls played.
A Panjim official said that due to the draft system in the qualifiers organised by Goa Football Association, it gets difficult to train new girls from scratch every season and hence, they feel they can't support the logistics of having the women's team.
RISING STUDENT'S CLUB
IWL 2018 champions Rising Student's Club finished fifth in Group A of IWL 2019 after being able to win only a single game out of the five matches they played.
Rising Student's released all their players right after the IWL and so, there has been no practice in the past three months. They are waiting for AIFF to specify the format and dates for the next IWL, which is when they will look to form a team.
STC-SAI Cuttack, who finished fourth in Group B of IWL 2019, winning two of their five games, have also not had any competitive game since the IWL. STC-SAI is a team from the Sports Authority of India hostel in Cuttack, and therefore, all the girls who are in the hostel have been practicing regularly under coach Shyam Manik Lodh.
Seven girls from the team are away for the Senior National Championships camp and a couple of them are in Goa for the U-17 World Cup team camp.
Under the government programme, STC-SAI are also inducting more girls and readying them in order to be ready for whatever competitive games that come their way. The average age of the girls in the hostel currently is 17.
IWL 2019 champions Sethu FC, as a club, have not practiced together since the IWL. Their national team players like Dangmei Grace, Sandhiya Ranganathan, Nongmaithem Ratanbala Devi and Loitongbam Ashalata Devi have all been in the India camp.
Rest of their players, most of who are college-going girls, practice in their college itself.
Even though Tamil Nadu has State Championships and CM trophy, none of the tournaments have happened so far since the end of the IWL and their coach Amrutha rued the lack of tournaments and said they needed regular game time for development.
"Last season, the dates were fixed in the last moment and we did not get much time to prepare. This time AIFF is saying they might have over 20 teams so we want to have a camp for at least three months," Amrutha said.
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