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IWL Club Owners - The risk associated with women's football is lesser than men's

03:49 GMT 07/02/2020
Gokulam Kenkre IWL
Women's team owners are ready to take financial risks but is there a reward?

The ongoing Indian Women's League, which is in its fourth season, has brought out more questions than answers regarding the development of women's football in India. 

Gokulam Kerala, Kenkre, KRYPHSA and defending champions Sethu FC have qualified for the semi-final and the fans have been treated to plenty of goals and drama on the field. There have been scintillating individual performances as well.

Credit needs to be given to the owners of the clubs for their investment and trust in women's football despite the risk factor associated with dipping into Indian football. With men's football teams shutting down due to huge losses, some of these club owners have decided to trust the process in this field. 

"We feel that there is a gestation period and things will probably take off. The Women's World Cup in France was very positive about what women's football is all about, the level of play and visibility," Joshua Kenkre, CEO, Kenkre FC, told Goal

He further added, "It is not only about men, but it is also about women. We decided that we should compete, and started the entire process last year. We qualified as champions of Maharashtra but there was a technical fault and we couldn't take part. But that didn't let us down. This year, we planned much better and took it more seriously, qualified as champions and we are now in the semi-finals. We feel that our effort has been more purposeful."

VC Praveen, Gokulam Kerala FC president, spoke to Goal, "We had a team in all age groups so we wanted to start a women's team as well. We went ahead with the plan, probably others can follow us later. If we are going to play, we should field the best team and find the players."

If it was purely down to business and profits, building a football team, that too a women's team in a country like India, wouldn't be the best choice. However, the reward of success in the sport is much bigger for these risk-takers.

"If you are building a team, if your aim is to compete, there is always going to be some financial implication. The budget could be 5 lakh, 15 lakh or 25 lakh. Everything has a cost these days. We need to pay them (coaches and players). If you compare the implication in terms of what you spend on men's team, I feel the financial risk is lesser in women's football. At times it is difficult, but that is football."

That said, IWL also needs better planning and execution from the side of the All India Football Federation (AIFF). First and foremost, the clubs should be informed of the football calendar well in advance. Also, the 'league' should be running for more than a month. 

"About IWL, I am sure that the league can be restructured if proper thought is given to the entire process. I don't think enough thought is being given to the IWL process," Joshua said. 

"This time, clubs from Bengaluru have come. Players also have become more sensible. They know they can make a big amount only for a month. We can't blame them, they have only one month and they have to make one year's money in a month. 

"At least two foreigners should be allowed in IWL. There are quality Indian players who are playing for a few clubs and they won't release them, that is why you see big goal differences in women's league," said Praveen. 

Development of women's football is set to be in the limelight soon with India set to host the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup later this year. 

"It cannot be that after hosting the World Cup, the league is where it is. Then, hosting the World Cup does not make sense. If we are hosting the World Cup, there has to progress in terms of women's football," opined Joshua.

"U-17 World Cup is coming, there will be more players willing to take it up. AIFF should announce their plans much earlier. There should be proper planning in terms of the calendar. This year it is in January, nobody knows when the league will happen next year," remarked Praveen. 

With the world set to turn their attention to India once again for a FIFA event, it is up to the Indian FA to get to work and come up with better plans for their women's top division as per the clubs.