With the group-stage exit of the men’s team at the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup, it is their women’s counterpart who has been drawing the attention of late with their recent friendly victories over Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Maymol Rocky and her side are now in Indonesia for as they sharpen their preparations for the second round of qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
It is the first time in history that India’s eves have managed to progress to round two of the Olympic qualifiers after they finished second behind Myanmar in the first stage.
It is a busy period coming up for the women’s team with the crucial Olympic qualifiers set to get underway in April. Before that, the team will first have to defend their SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Cup crown in March.
Now, the women have the inaugural four-nation tournament announced by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to look forward too as well in 2019. The tournament is set to run tentatively from February 7th to 17th and is the first time that such an event is taking place in India. The Indian team, ranked 62nd under FIFA, will play against Iran, Myanmar and Nepal, ranked 60, 44 and 108 respectively.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said, "This is the first time in history that such an event is taking place in India. We hope to get a nation from one of the SAFF countries to participate and we might also get Iran and Myanmar as well."
Kushal Das and National Team Director Abhishek Yadav have done well to turn their focus towards all national teams across age groups and this is another step in the right direction.
Such a busy calendar is a sea of change from the past where India’s women counterparts faced a dearth of international football. The team’s engagement on the international arena were largely restricted to FIFA World Cup, Asian Cup and Olympic qualifiers.
Barely did the women’s side get any opportunity to play any international matches outside the various qualifiers and SAFF Cup while their men’s counterparts have been afforded tournaments such as the Intercontinental Cup and the Tri-Nations series in recent times.
As such, the announcement of a Four-Nation Cup for the women’s team is a landmark development for the sport in the country. If the competition can become an annual fixture, it will aid women’s football tremendously in the country in the long run.
A lack of exposure has been plaguing the women’s team for some years now with barely any international friendlies of note arranged by the Indian FA. For the majority, India were stuck in an endless loop of matches with its South Asian neighbours in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives with the occasional Asian Cup or World Cup qualifier fixture against the likes of Thailand and Chinese Taipei.
With the advent of the Four-Nation Cup, the women can expect to see much varied and higher pedigreed opponents just like their men’s counterpart have been afforded with the various tournaments held on home soil.
Along with the launch of the Indian Women’s League (IWL), the latest step taken by the AIFF will go a long way in giving a much-needed boost to women’s football in the country. These steps alone won’t change the women’s football landscape across the country but they have the power to become the catalyst and accelerators of its development.