Indian women's team captain Ashalata Devi described the ordeal that women footballers have to go through as they struggle to establish a stable career for themselves in the sport.
Ashalata Devi shared that the top players don't get paid enough even in the Indian Women's League (IWL) and that's makes it difficult for their parents to let ther daughter play the game.
Ashalata said they feel like vegetables with the way clubs bargain for their salaries.
"It's unfortunate that we have to bargain and demand. It feels that we are vegetables in the market. They would bargain for a small amount. Many of us have faced this kind of situation. Even I sometimes think that if I were a male player, I would have got a handsome salary," Manipur's Ashalata told Outlook.
Ashalata stated that with the salaries that women footballers get at the moment, it is difficult to sustain a career out of it and support families financially.
"Many players don't even get Rs 1 lakh in a season. The girls do equal hard work like the male players but where is the reward," she further said.
Ashalata shared that there are lots of players who can go out to play like Bala Devi's stint with Scotland's Rangers FC but lack facilitation and channels to do that.
"There are a good number of players in our team who can easily go outside and play. But for that thing you need good agents and sponsors. Most of the players don't have an agent to look after that part. Many women players even have to buy their supplements. Not everyone has a job. And the lockdown has put them in more trouble," Ashalata stated.
Ashalata, however, felt that the situation around women's football has improved in the past 2-3 years and hosting big tournaments like the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2021 and AFC Asian Cup 2022 will get the much-needed limelight for the game.
"It has improved a lot in the last two to three years. Earlier, we hardly had the exposure tours. But the last two years have been great. We have been travelling outside to play games. Now, the IWL is also taking place. That has improved the level of competitiveness and it also means more tournaments," said Ashalata, an ardent fan of English women duo Alex Scott and Lucy Bronze.
"Along with that, organizing these kinds of bigger tournaments will help us get better infrastructure in our country. And our dream is to qualify for the World Cup which is not impossible. For the last couple of years, we have been working hard for that. I'm confident that we will be able to play the World Cup in the next five years," she said.
Ashalata is the only centre back to be named the AIFF Player of the Year while currently, the Indian women's football team is now ranked 55 in the FIFA rankings.