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Better rated but little recognition

Visit the Sports Authority of India's Eastern Centre now and you will get another example of gender inequality. The India woman's football squad is training there under coach Shahid Jabar for the SAFF Cup in Sri Lanka next September.

sports Updated: Jul 26, 2012 23:21 IST
Amoy Ghoshal

Visit the Sports Authority of India's Eastern Centre now and you will get another example of gender inequality. The India woman's football squad is training there under coach Shahid Jabar for the SAFF Cup in Sri Lanka next September. India are the defending champions, having won in December 2010 scoring 40 goals and conceding none in December 2010.

From facilities through accommodation to practice matches, everything about the women’s preparation is woefully inadequate in comparison with the men. Of the 42 players here, only 24 have jobs.

This despite the women's usually outperforming the men. The men's team is currently 163rd in the Fifa rankings. The women are 52nd among 175 countries. Yet most can't play regularly, there is no equivalent of the I-League and only Bengal has a local women's league in India.

There's more: the senior national championship or the equivalent of the Santosh Trophy for men isn't a regular affair. It wasn't held in 2011-12 so the majority of the women at this camp are from Manipur and champions Orissa, the two teams that impressed most in the 2010-11 national championship.

For the SAFF Cup, the women will train for 45 days and play two matches against under-16 and under-17 boys. The men readied for last December's SAFF Cup with friendlies against Malaysia and Zambia. Ahead of last March's disastrous AFC Cup campaign — where India conceded eight goals and scored none in three group league losses — the men had an exposure trip to Dubai followed by friendlies with Oman and Azerbaijan.

The last international the women played was against Bahrain in September 2011. Once, India was even scrapped by Fifa for not playing an international in 18 months.

Attacking midfielder Bembem Devi told HT: “We have consistently held a good position in the Fifa rankings and won both the South Asian Games gold and SAFF Cup in 2010. But still we don't get international exposure and there is no doubt that the men's team gets better facilities.”

Bembem, an India regular for 17 years, though said the situation has marginally improved since India were scrapped by Fifa in 2009. The AIFF now allocates a daily allowance of Rs. 750 during tournaments and Rs. 600 for camps, she said.

‘Career impossible’
But Orissa striker Sasmita Malik said it is impossible for a woman to have a career as a footballer in India. “I have been lucky to get a job but most girls are unemployed and because local leagues are not conducted regularly, the majority don't get matches all year. This is one big reason why we don't improve much,” she said.

Subhankar Mukherjee, the AIFF's national teams director, said: “It's difficult to find sponsors for the women's national team. It is very important that the state governments help state associations to start or revive local women's leagues.”