These days the FIFA Women's World Cup is being played in Australia and New Zealand. In this tournament, the final eight teams have been decided in the brawl of 32 teams from all over the world. After the knockout round matches, the final of the tournament will be played on 20 August. This tournament has once again scratched the old wound of Indian football.
So far neither the men's nor the women's team has been able to reach the main draw of the World Cup in Indian football. Although this sting is of both the teams, but Nivetha Ramdas, assistant coach of India's Under-17 women's team, seeing the passion and passion of young women players, feels that a day will come when the country will be proud of the women's football team.
The national women's team was playing an international match and it was announced that spectators in the stadium would be allowed to watch the match without free of charge, but despite this, there were only a handful of spectators in the stadium. But the day will also come when everyone will reach out to congratulate the achievements of the Indian women's football team.
Talking about the past achievements and glory of the Indian women's football team, its history is long. From 1975 to 1991, women's football in the country was governed by the Women's Football Federation of India (WFFI), which was subordinate to the Asian Women's Football Confederation (ALFC).
Then the Indian team won the silver medal in the 1980 and 1983 tournaments of the Women's Asian Cup.
Ironically, however, the ALFC was not recognized by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, so some of the matches and tournaments played by the national team were declared 'unauthorised.
After 1991, the Indian women's team got recognition from the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The Indian women's football team has also won the gold medal in the South Asian Games on three occasions i.e. in 2010, 2016 and 2019. In 2018, the team had also entered the second round of the Olympic qualifiers for the first time, although this journey could not progress further.
Last year the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup was held in India but the host team lost all their matches in the first round and were denied a place in the next round. But playing in this level of tournament was no less than an achievement for the women's team.
The Indian women's team has also qualified for the second round of the Women's AFC Olympic Qualifiers to bid for the 2024 Paris Olympics. In the recent past, the team has made good starts and shown spirited performances in many tournaments.
But there was not much to celebrate for the Indian women's football team during the 1990s and the decade that followed. This was the time when young women were not even showing interest in making football a career. At the same time parents also do not want their daughters to play football.
Nivetha Ramdas, who was the assistant coach in India's U-17 team's World Cup debut, when asked about the barriers to starting football as a career in the country, said, "A player has to be six or maximum eight years old. One has to start playing football at the age of 12. But many Indian youths start playing competitive football at the age of 12.
The biggest difference when you compare with other top teams in Europe and Asia is the early career start," he said. Also, parents in India feel that their children will be at risk of injury if they choose to play football. These restrictions are more on girls than on boys," he added questioningly.
Some even believe that foreign players are successful in football because of the nutrition of the food they eat. While this is a myth. Indian food is famous for its nutritional value. That is not the point. If parents Encourage your children to get into sports and if the media too focuses more attention on budding young footballers in the country then why can't our boys and girls also achieve
Indian women's football has produced a lot of talent in the past and present. Names like Shanti Malik to Oinam Bembem Devi, Bala Devi and Ashalata Devi have spread their shine. Shanti Malik was one of the best forwards to represent the country in the 1980s, Bembem Devi represented the country 85 times, Bala Devi is the first Indian female footballer to sign a professional contract with a foreign football club.
Ashalata Devi led the country in many important tournaments. So many talents emerged from this country only.
In the current team, players like Indumati, Manisha, Yumnam Kamla Devi and Aditi Chauhan make headlines due to their excellent performance. But is he getting due recognition for his stellar performance?
Nivetha said, "No. On the other hand, if a cricketer plays for the country for two or three years, in which he has performed a little very well, then even then he becomes a well-known name in the country. But in football, even if the player stays for a long time Keep doing impressive performances for the country, he won't get that kind of respect anywhere except in football circles. But men's football is a little better in that regard."
Sandhya Ranganathan, a member of the current women's team of India, also feels that football should also get the same respect.
Sandhya said, “The Indian women's football team has achieved a lot in the last five plus years. But whenever the team qualifies for a big tournament or does well in a tough competition, it is celebrated here like any other sport. Don't get the headlines."
On future expectations, Sandhya says, "The Indian Football Federation is doing a good job to promote the game. I am sure if more and more people start encouraging women's football, India will become one of the leading Asian Games in the future." Can qualify for a big tournament like the World Cup.
When asked about the Indian women's team's realistic chances of qualifying for the World Cup or the Olympics, Nivetha said, "Indian women's football team is definitely expected to achieve big. India is ranked 60th in the current FIFA rankings." Which is a good sign considering how little passion and support there is for the game here. The team is certainly raising hopes of making it to the big tournament ahead."
He said, "Indian Premier League (IPL) matches are watched here with so much passion and enthusiasm. People stand in line for so many hours to get tickets for the matches. If football matches are well supported, it will help players will get a lot of encouragement."
Nandini, who has represented the state and regional football team on several occasions, praised the performance of the Indian team.
She said, "Women's football has made a lot of progress in the last few years. Compared to the past, we now have better infrastructure and training facilities. Earlier only a few youngsters showed interest in making football a career. But Things are changing now. The women's team is mostly performing exceptionally well. In the recent past, there has been an interest in youth in football."
Nandini, who plays for Tamil Nadu, also mentions some of the difficulties, "There are some issues that are troubling women's football. More and more international friendlies should be played for the betterment of the players before the big tournaments. Other male and female players need to be treated equally."
By the way, changes have also been seen in Indian football with time. There was also a time when Indian players played without shoes four decades ago.
Many players did not have a second jersey. At that time there were not enough grounds in the country. The women's team did not even get recognition from the AIFF. But since the 1990s, many things related to football have improved in the country.
Recently, many new programs have been started by the All India Football Association, such as 'Blue Cubs', which aims to build a strong base for Indian football. Its objective is to find and groom young talents in the age group of 4 to 12 years across the country.
Football players and coaches feel these changes too. But at the same time, they also expect inspiration and support from the media and the public.
The All India Football Association has set a target of making India a 'powerhouse' in Asian football by 2047, a goal people associated with Indian women's football hope can be achieved.
Indian women footballers are eager to move forward and live up to the expectations placed on themselves.
However, the expectations of these players from the media, general public and the federation is to encourage and appreciate their achievements, as well as to treat them at the same level as their male counterparts