Pasighat: The overwhelming crowd support in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh for the Senior Women's National Football Championships has been the "biggest advertisement" for women's football in India, feels Ajay Kipa, secretary of Arunachal Pradesh Football Association.
As people from different districts braved the persistent rain to soak in the euphoria of the "two-week-long festival," Arunachal Pradesh women's team captain Bamang Ana termed it nothing less than "a joyous occasion."
"We're very fortunate to have played our part in the joyous occasion in our state. My parents, friends travelled a long way to watch matches. Although we lost in the quarter-finals, it was a great learning experience for us," Ana expressed.
"This was the first-ever senior NFC hosted in our state and we are in awe with the resounding response that we received. Spectators came from every district to watch the national team players in front of their eyes. They went back with these memories and the message will resonate through them," Kipa added. "It was nothing short of a two-week-long festival in our state."
What you're seeing is just one section of the fans gathered to watch the final of #SWNFC19 at the CHF stadium. Football lovers of Arunachal Pradesh, take a bow. 📷 @tongamrina #HerGameToo #indianfootball pic.twitter.com/1hEHJIi9Uw— Women's Football India (@WomensFootieIND) September 24, 2019
'WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK RELENTLESSLY'
Since Arunachal Pradesh advanced to the final of the sub-junior NFC 2018-19 in Naharlagun, they continued to dish out scintillating performances time and again.
"We won two silver medals in the last 12 months which is quite encouraging. After sub-junior NFC in Naharlagun, our girls achieved the same feat in sub-junior girls' NFC too," Kipa Bharat, coach of Arunachal Pradesh women's team explained.
APFA have been operating in women's football for the last two years and they have put in some serious efforts before the NFC. Although their efforts fell short in the quarters, Bharat termed her team as a 'strong unit' overall.
"We don't want to give excuses but we could have advanced more with a rigorous preparation. These bunch of girls are nothing less than a strong unit regardless," Bharat sounded optimistic.
'WOMEN'S LEAGUE HAS HELPED US A LOT'
"We have started Women's League two years back and since then women's football has been growing from strength to strength in our state. We have eight teams and looking forward to increase further."
"We have done some scouting across the state for this tournament. APFA constituted a committee comprising of coach, competition director and state-appointed coordinator who did the final selection," Kipa explained.
"We want to delve into grassroots football further. Northeast has always been a hotbed of talents and we want to explore our state. We are planning to host the first Golden Baby League in our state in October. We'll continue to work relentlessly alongside AIFF and in five years, we'll surely scale a newer height," Ajay voiced.
"After the Women's League started, this senior women's NFC will surely ignite the zeal amongst the girls to try their luck in football. Girls are coming to play spontaneously. We are looking forward to a promising future when Arunachal Pradesh will have own representation in the India National Team," Kipa said.
This was the second Women's NFC finals in the state after the north-eastern state hosted the Sub-junior Women's NFC finals last year.
"We hosted ten teams in Naharlagun last year for the Sub-junior NFC finals. But the magnitude of hosting the Hero Senior Women's NFC is huge. Hosting 30 teams, caring for their accommodation, training schedules, logistical arrangements was our biggest challenge. We tried our best. At the end, everyone was happy and that's the biggest compliment for us," Ajay maintained. "We're thankful to AIFF for trusting us. Hopefully, we have been able to pay it back as well."