Eying to make the sport professional for female footballers, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday launched the first-ever Indian Women’s League (IWL) to be held at the Ambedkar Stadium here from January 28 till February 14.
The inaugural edition of the IWL will feature six teams — Jeppiar (Puducherry), Eastern Sporting Union (Imphal), Rising Student’s Club (Cuttack), Football Club Alakhpura (Haryana) and a team each from I-League and ISL clubs, Aizawl FC and Pune City FC.
The six participating teams would play each other in a round robin format with the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals.
20 Teams from across nine states had taken part in the first leg of the qualifiers from which nine teams qualified for the IWL prelims which were held in Cuttack in October 2016.
Dalima Chibber (FC Pune City), Oinam Bembem Devi (ESUFC), Sasmita Malik (Rising Student FC), Sanju Yadav (FC Alakhpura), Sumithra Kamaraj (Jeppiar Institute FC) and K Lalruaizeli (Aizawl FC) represented their respective teams at the launch.
Among other dignitaries who were present during the launch were Sports Minister Vijay Goel and chairperson of AIFF’s women’s division Sarah Pilot.
Speaking on the occasion, AIFF president Praful Patel said: “We at AIFF just cannot look at boys. In the last four SAAF championships Indian women’s team have won. So we need to make women’s team more stronger. We need to make professional women football players and the IWL is a step in that direction.
“This is a beginning for the women’s football in the country. We are starting with six teams and hope to expand it to 16 in future. This gives our women footballers the option to take it up as a career.”
Patel also said that going by the world ranking Indian women’s football team has more chance to qualify for the World Cup.
“Our women’s team is ranked 54 in the world which is higher than the men’s ranking of 129 which means that for the upcoming 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,” the AIFF chief said.