After the Indian Super League, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced the launch of the Indian Women’s League (IWL), which will kick off at the Capital’s Ambedkar Stadium on January 28.
The IWL will comprise six teams, short-listed after two stages of competitions. Twenty teams from nine states took part in the preliminary qualifiers, and nine qualified for the IWL preliminaries held in October.
The teams will play on a league-cum-knockout basis with the final to be held on February 14.
World Cup dreams
AIFF president Praful Patel said the IWL will not only encourage youngsters to take up football, but also help improve the standard of the game in the country.
“Our women’s team is ranked 54th in the world, which is higher than the men’s ranking (129). That means for the FIFA women’s World Cup in 2019, if we put in the right effort, our women’s team will have an outside chance of qualifying for the World Cup before the men. This in itself will be a huge achievement,” Patel said.
Patel was confident the league will rapidly expand and urged the country’s top clubs to start a women’s team as well. “Our aim is to have 16 teams soon. We will request all the national clubs to have women’s sides too.”
The AIFF presented Rs 25 lakh to the team that won the SAF football championship. Skipper Bala Devi was delighted. “It will motivate the players to carry on the good work beyond the regional level,” she said.
The six participating teams are Jeppiaar Institute of Technology (Puducherry), Aizawal Football Club (Mizoram), Rising Students Club (Cuttack), Football Club Pune City (Pune), Eastern Sporting Union (Imphal) and Football Club Alakhpura (Haryana).
Union sports minister, Vijay Goel, unveiled the trophy while Rio Olympics bronze medalist, Sakshi Malik, was guest of honour.
AIFF has nominated Sara Pilot as the chairman of the league.
The captains of the teams are: Sasmita Malik (Rising Students), Oinam Bembem Devi (Eastern Sporting), Sanju Yadav (Football Club Alakhpura), Sumithra Kamaraj (Jeppiaar Institute), Dalima Chibber (Pune City) and K Lalhruaizeli (Aizawal).