The All India Football Federation (AIFF) President, Praful Patel announced Wednesday that a women's football league will be started in India this year. Patel, who is also the vice-president of AFC (Asian Football Confederation), made the announcement in the Indian football governing body's Special General Body Meeting held at New Delhi.
Indian football fans have for many years called for a women's league in the nation that could reach the heights of popularity the I-League and the Indian Super League have witnessed. Women's football in India has steadily been gaining ground over the years, with stars like Aditi Chauhan and Bembem Devi turning out to be the flag bearers of the sport in the country.
However, their achievements have failed to get mass attention, since many are not even aware of the fact that India has a women's football team, which is actually ranked higher than the men's team. The Indian eves, led by head coach Sajid Dar, are ranked 58 in the world, compared to the 160th ranking of the men's team.
The India women's football team has won the SAFF Championship on three consecutive occasions. They won their second South Asian Games gold earlier this year as they thrashed Nepal 4-0 in Shillong. It was the legendary midfielder Bembem Devi's final game in an international jersey.
"More emphasis is being paid on Women's Football in India," Praful Patel announced in an AIFF press release Wednesday. "AIFF will leave no stone unturned for providing support for us to qualify for the AFC Women's Asian Cup. We had talks about a Women's League and we shall kick-off the Women's League sometime this year itself," he added.
Besides Bembem, Aditi — the 23-year-old goalkeeper — also made headlines last year as she made history by becoming the first woman footballer from India to play a Women's Premier League game for English side West Ham. She has also pitched the idea of starting a women's football league in India on many occasions and is elated with the news.
"If this is true, then I think this is the best thing to happen for women's football and I believe it will really help develop the standard of the game in India if the league is organized well," she told International Business Times, India.