India's Best Chance of Playing in the next World Cup

India’s Best Chance of Playing in the next World Cup

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Football is officially giving cricket a run for its money, in terms of capturing India’s hearts and attention. According to TOI, 100 million viewers in India will watch the final match of the World Cup today, up from around 62 million in 2010. In comparison, 120 million people watched the recently concluded ICC T20 World Cup.

Sadly, most Indians harbor little hope of seeing their own countrymen compete for the football crown anytime soon. The men’s team is ranked 154th in the world and hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1950.

Fret not, fellow football addicts. Indian women have been kicking their way up the football rankings and may even qualify for the next World Cup.

india-women-football

As Zee News reports:

In the FIFA rankings, the Indian women are ranked 50th out of 125 nations and they currently are rated eleventh in Asia. They are the current holders of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) women’s cup. In its last edition in 2012, India beat Nepal 3-1 at the CR&FC Grounds in Colombo. And they are currently training to face-off against the best Asian teams at the upcoming Incheon Asian Games.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the ascent of Indian women’s football is how much they have achieved with virtually next to no system to support them.

Aditi Chauhan, goalkeeper of the Indian women’s team, explains:

There is no national league, which is a major drawback. Our male counterparts on the other hand will now have two leagues soon—the I-league and the ISL. So, yes, it is still difficult for girls to take up football professionally as compared to boys. But the AIFF recently announced that we might have a league starting next year, let’s see how that pans out.

She adds that most players come from a low-income background, from states like Manipur, Orissa, and Jharkhand. “These girls are not very educated, and the only employment opportunity available for women footballers is in Railways or in state police department.”

But the remedies to these challenges are certainly achievable in a short span of time. Aditi says that the team can move forward by leaps and bounds with simple initiatives:

  • More employment opportunities for girls playing the sports — Athletes need to earn money to support their families, and job prospects give parents more incentive to send their children to play football.
  • Better facilities and exposure tours — The AIFF should make sincere efforts to invest in grassroots initiatives and academies for girls like they are doing for boys.
  • Women’s National League — Launching a league will promote healthy competition and increase attraction to the sport, and let viewers at home watch our stars in action.

So, for all of us who love the sport and want to see our India thrive on the international stage, let’s speak up to advance women’s football. Let the All India Football Federation know you want to watch these women score on TV, and that they must start the women’s league ASAP.

Meanwhile, you can keep with the latest news about the women’s team on Sportskeeda. Also, check out how Magic Bus uses sport, particularly football, to mentor children living in some of the worst conditions in the world to make effective life choices in areas such as gender equality, education, and health.

Psssst → Magic Bus is Asia’s largest mentoring charity, and they’re hiring for management roles in Mumbai, NOIDA, and Delhi.