Women Football’s Chak De Moment: Indian Team Likely to Make It To FIFA World Cup Before the Men

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Women Football’s Chak De Moment: Indian Team Likely to Make It To FIFA World Cup Before the Men

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Football is big in India, if you consider viewership of the European leagues and the growing popularity of the Indian Super League. While the men’s game draws all the eyeballs, there’s a silent revolution taking shape in the women’s team.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel on Tuesday said that the national women’s team can qualify for the FIFA World Cup before the men’s team does, despite the less attention given to them.

The Indian women’s team is currently ranked 55 out of 159 nations, while the men’s team is 104 out of 210 countries. The sports ministry has asked the AIFF to prepare a “concrete and actionable”, Patel said, adding that the AIFF is hoping for the women’s team to qualify for the 2027 FIFA World Cup.

After a long wait, will we finally get to see the tricolour waving at a FIFA World Cup game?

The optimism was shared by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, who pointed out that the women’s football team is ranked higher than the men, whether it is at the junior or senior level. “We have the ability to qualify, even if we are not the host nation,” he said.

Patel also stated that the AIFF is creating a developmental team for women players on the lines of the men’s Indian Arrows, to take part in the Indian Women’s League.

India was to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup this year, but after a postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was cancelled. India, however, has been given the hosting rights for the 2022 edition. “I was disappointed that some of the U-17 girls won’t be able to play in 2022 due to age factor. But there is nothing to be disappointed, you can play in the U-20, senior category, you are the future. There is nothing to worry, we will give all the support,” Rijiju told the sportspersons.

Whether it is badminton, athletics or wrestling, women have captured the imagination of the country before their male counterparts. They have made it to the highest level and been toe to toe with the top in the world. Now India’s moment in the game is steadily but surely arriving, and it is the women’s football team that is the one to watch out for.

However, even as ministers seem to back the team, there is little support from the rest of the nation – the fans and the media. It’s high time to stop obsessing over Virat Kohli’s milestones and celebrate the real winners here – the women’s football team.

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