The Indian Women's League is into its third season and Gokulam Kerala have confirmed their progression to the semi-final with five wins in as many matches. They are the only I-League club this season to have fielded a team in the league and president V.C. Praveen said that in doing so, they are emphasising that "football does not mean just men's football".
"Like in any other field women also should have equal opportunity. This was the driving force behind the women's team," Praveen told IANS.
Despite the challenges that come with putting together a women's team in the country, Praveen is of the opinion that the sport has tremendous potential to grow.
"If more I-League clubs and ISL clubs invest in women's football then there will be more opportunity for them. We want to start a trend and show to other clubs that football does not mean just men's football," he said.
However, Praveen said that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) needs to make efforts to improve the structure of the league and ensure that more professional clubs take part in it. "Women football is still in its infancy and there is a lot of improvement that should be made," he said. "AIFF should structure the league in a better way and there should be more professional clubs taking part. It is up to the football association to convince the clubs about the importance of women football in this country."
He also pointed out that the final dates for the league was announced just a month before its commencement and there was not enough time for the players who were part of the Indian team to recover. "We were able to have hardly 15 days of training camp in Kozhikode before the tournament. Every club needs more time to prepare for a national tournament. Also the dates of the IWL were announced just a month before, which made us to struggle to sign players and register them," he said.
It is the eagerness of the players to play the competitive games that balances out the structural problems. "We had three friendly matches against the men's team during our camp and they fought really well. Every time they asked for tougher opponents. Even our coaching staff was surprised. These girls love football and this is what I like about them," he said.
(Jagannath Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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