Football in India has been on a steady rise since the start of the century. Notable players like Oinam Bembem Devi, Sasmita Malik and Ngangom Bala Devi have strived hard and served Indian football with distinction through the years, and even decades.
There has also been visible improvement in the women’s teams’ performance since 2010. For starters, India has participated in various tournaments, in which earlier they could not. The women of Indian football fought tooth and nail against Myanmar in the qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympic games which were held recently but bowed out after a hard-fought 3-3 draw.
In terms of rankings, the Indian women’s team is 63rd in the world at the moment. Only a decade earlier, they were ranked 92 – which in itself shows a significant leap. What may surprise some, is that in comparison, the Indian men’s team – which has also jumped up the rankings recently – is currently ranked 101. It brings to light a disbalance in the lack of coverage or attention given to the women’s team, let alone praise, as it ought to get.
Particularly in Asia, the Indian team has been a real force to be reckoned with. The South Asian Games (SAG) was one such tournament where they made headlines by defeating Nepal 2-1 in the final and clinching the gold medal. Add to this the SAFF Cup where they have dominated for years and been the most successful team in the history of the competition, lifting the trophy seven times.
Sunil Chhetri, Padma Shri awardee and captain of men's team, has been a great supporter of women’s football in India. He has voiced his support on various social media platforms and has urged fans to back our women’s team. After their recent win in the SAFF Cup, the Bengaluru FC captain said in an AIFF press release – “Extremely proud of all of you. I have always maintained that the women's team is much better than the men.”
Recently, it was confirmed by FIFA that India will be hosting the 2020 U-17 Women’s World Cup. Maybe this could be the big step leading to greater awareness and development of the women’s sport in India. It is way overdue for the Indian women’s team to get their share of the limelight – the least they deserve for all their efforts.