After the successful hosting of the fourth edition of the Indian Women’s League (IWL), the Bangalore Football Stadium is set to be the venue for the next edition of the tournament as well.
However, it depends on the Covid-19 pandemic and whether they can get the go-ahead from the local authorities.
Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) Secretary Satyanarayan asserted the same as he touched upon the tournament's success.
12 teams featured in the IWL last season which saw a group stage, followed by a knockout stage wherein the top two teams from two clusters qualified for the semi-final. All games were played at a single venue – the Bangalore Football Stadium.
M Satyanarayan, the secretary of the KSFA, explained how the tournament was a grand success and a win-win for all stakeholders. He stated how KSFA established a women's league system in the state in 2018. The Karnataka Women's League has two divisions now with the Super Division being the top one. Bangalore United FC won the tournament in the 2018-19 season and finished runners-up last season. Kickstart FC won all six of their games this season and were crowned champions. Both these teams represented the state in the 2019-20 IWL.
“The last two years have been excellent for us. AIFF came up with the idea of us hosting the Women’s Super League. Then we did the Super Division and Bangalore United FC qualified. Next year, we did it in a slightly better way. Two years ago, we had only four clubs for women’s football in Bengaluru,” he said.
“Then we held our first Impetus Trophy where 18 teams came up and we realised that there are so many girls playing. Now we have a Super Division and an A-Division. We have not played anything in the A-Division but we are planning to play either a seven a side or an eight a side there. Because, when you have just three good players at a club and others just make up the numbers, it makes the games one sided.
“The IWL was one of the last tournaments on the old turf but the pitch held up well. We did not see any injuries or anything. The Bengaluru crowd really enjoyed the IWL. The level of football was very high, including the final which ended 3-2. It was almost like watching two professional men’s team playing. This was the first time we organised and there were 12 teams in one venue.
“I think AIFF was happy and all the other teams were happy because everything – food, transport and so on was on time. It was a win-win for everyone. They gave us (Karnataka) two slots because someone pulled out at the last minute. We had Bangaluru United FC which has been there for a long time and Kickstart FC which was relatively new and won the Karnataka Women's League. I think the quality of the teams will be higher in the next season."
The KSFA Secretary pointed out that hosting the IWL again is logistically feasible. He is hoping that the tournament will return to the city and draw a bigger crowd.
He said - “One of the advantages we have is that there are two other grounds close by – the South United ground and the HAL ground. Training grounds were not a problem at all. All of them trained on the astroturf and the grounds were close. The AIFF have not told anything yet. But we are ready for it.
“We are aware of the flaws we had. One thing was that we would have preferred more spectators. It was good but this time we will try to get some schools so that the kids can watch and get inspired. That’s one area where we want to work on.
“Once our ground is ready, we are looking at a long-term plan of developing a women’s state team as well."
Additionally, the city is also a strong favourite to host the remainder of the I-League second division season. FC Bengaluru United, who are among the favourites to advance to the next round, could enjoy a marginal advantage, should Bengaluru host the competition.
Satyanarayan is hoping that second division football arrives at the city and he believes that the KSFA has already set a solid example with the smooth organising of the IWL. The remainder of the second division is set to contested by four teams - Mohammedan Sporting, ARA FC, Bengaluru United and Garhwal FC. The winner will progress to the I-League next season.
“They are looking to finish the ongoing tournament before October 5th or so because the team which wins will go on to the I-League first division and will have about 15 days left in the transfer window to sign some players.
“We are ready (to host). We can get the clearances from the government. Mr Harris is an MLA also. We will get the clearance from the local government too, as the lockdown is lifted. But that is not an immediate concern. Once we are confirmed as the hosts, we can go about that process.
“We have the grounds also. I think they will take a decision on August 15 and we are hoping it comes to us.
“FC Bengaluru United are determined to make it to the I-League. If it is held here, it will be a slight advantage for them. If they make it, we will be glad to have an ISL club an I-League club,” he concluded.