AIFF apathy sees Indian women’s football team with no SAFF prize money
The Indian women’s football team claimed its fourth straight South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship title in January, but is yet to get its promised prize money by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
There is a buzz in Indian football as the country gears up to stage the FIFA Under-17 World Cup next month. However, there is little to cheer in the women’s national team, which lives in the shadows.
The Indian women’s national football team won the SAFF Championship held from December 26 to January 4 at Siliguri. However, members of the triumphant team are eagerly waiting for the day when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) will open its purse to give them Rs 25 lakh in prize money promised if they won.
The AIFF splurged around Rs. 4 crore last month to stage a tri-nation invitational tournament in Mumbai, featuring Mauritius and St Kitts and Nevis, 160 and 125 in the Fifa world rankings. The national body also lost around Rs 65-70 lakh after a forced venue change from Chennai. Despite all this, Indian men’s team could not hang on to their top-100 ranking.
However, the AIFF bosses have completely ignored the women’s team despite their emerging the South Asian champions.
It has been almost nine months since the Indian national women’s football team led by goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan outplayed Bangladesh 3-1 to win the title for the fourth consecutive time. But the federation hasn’t given them the promised cash incentive.
In fact, the players were not even given daily allowance during the competition.
The players are scared to speak on the issue fearing a backlash from the AIFF. “If the federation comes to know I have given you some inputs on the subject, my name will be struck off the national team,” said a team member pleading anonymity.
According to the player, the federation had collected details of bank account and PAN card, yet there hasn’t been any transfer of funds. “In this digital age, how long does it take for money to be transferred from one account to another?” she asked.
After winning the SAFF title, the women’s team rose to 54 in the Fifa rankings. At the launch of women’s professional league in January, AIFF president Praful Patel had said better ranking would give the national team an outside chance to directly qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
“Our women’s team is ranked 54, which is higher than the men’s (129). This 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 to qualify before the men. This in itself will be a huge achievement,” Patel said.
Each player will get only around Rs 1 lakh each, but it will still mean a lot to them. “It gives a feeling the federation supports you,” says a team member.
Team manager on defensive
Indu Choudhary, the team manager, says the delay doesn’t mean the federation will not fulfil its promise. She says in the past too there have been such delays but the players have been paid their dues. “The players will certainly get the dues as the process is on. There are certain formalities to be done. The moment it is complete, the money will be transferred to the account of the players,” she told Hindustan Times over phone.
When pointed out that it has been close to nine months, she argued the delay could be due to the furnishing of wrong account details by the players.
On the AIFF not having paid daily allowance, she said she had no idea, but the federation doesn’t hold back the money. “The federation is supporting the players,” she added.
AIFF secretary Kushal Das said he was busy in a meeting.