If the Shahrukh Khan starrer Bollywood flick Chak De India was aimed at highlighting the loop holes in women’s hockey in India then it isn't hard to believe that not only hockey but women’s football in India too suffers similarly.
When multi crore deals are signed by the football governing body in India for the men’s team, the women’s team can only afford to read about it in the newspapers with a hope that something some day might come their way.
A team led by Ronibala Chanu that had once surpassed the top 50 ranked nations in the world, was recently debarred from the FIFA Ranking system for not playing a single international tie for almost two years. The last international match involving the women from India was played in the year 2007 when they were thrashed by Iran 4-1.
Being stripped off their rankings in the month of June 2009 India moved down to the 23rd spot in Asia directly from 11th spot. Awakened by this ruling, the AIFF looked for help from the association of the world’s best women's football team, United States of America, which is headed by a man with Indian roots, Mr. Sunil Gulati.
The US Soccer Federation was kind enough to send their U-15 team coach Mike Dickey, to help the Indian team mainly comprising of players from the North East and Orissa. The month long camp held at Goa was very useful as American Coach Dickey got his opportunity to train the eves with modern technical changes in the game.
It came as a shock for the American when he came to know that despite having only one national level competition lasting for a maximum of 20 days every year, the Indian team still manages to be one of the top 15 football playing nations in the continent.
After a gap of 2 long years the women took the field in Bangladesh as a part of the South Asian Games in Dhaka. The opening match of the tournament saw the ladies in blue face the girls from the island nation of Sri Lanka.
With a well fought first half battle on a sultry afternoon in Dhaka, the Indian team went into the break with a 2-0 lead. But the second half saw the Lankans get a real tast of Indian football. As many as 6 goals were pumped in as the team led by Bem Bem Devi scored 8 goals in all.
A hattrick came from M Mandakini and further goals from the likes of Naobi Chanu, Sumita Mallik and Pinky sealed the victory for the women after almost 800 days in the international circuit.
More than the victory, the huge margin with which it was achieved, was more of an answer to the officials in the governing body. A team with enormous talent which once had become the runners up in the AFC Women’s Championship and also has always been amongst the top 15 nations have been a victim of negligence.
With the least amount of infrastructure and monetary gains in women’s football arena, the performance by the eves has always been far better than the men’s team in the continental level.
India next take the pitch in the South Asian games against arch rivals Pakistan. We can only hope that the team comes back victorious and makes a re-entry in the FIFA ranking system.