THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Women’s football revolutionizing feminism in India

Indian Women's national team match action (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

A radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly is termed by the dictionary as ‘Revolution’. For others, that 10 letter word which has inspired generations, motivated people to achieve the unachievable, might mean something different – something which gives them perhaps hope. And for some it might mean getting a taste of living their dreams, be it for a day, for a month or a decade. For the word, ‘Revolution’ has the capacity to not only change lives, but also change the whole demographics of nations.

On a cold winter morning of January 28, 2017, 22 Women brace themselves to finally get the taste of ‘revolution’ in poetically the capital of India, New Delhi. They tie their cleats as hard as they can so it won’t falter at the decisive moment. They pull up their socks and wear their shin guards as armour. They pray as ‘revolution’ is only minutes away.

The inaugural edition of the Indian Women’s League (IWL) kicked-off in the Capital on that cold winter morning, with an aim to not only take the revolution of Women’s football in the nation to the next step but also cash-in on the growing popularity of Women’s football in India, providing Women footballers a platform to showcase their talent.

It was perhaps time to give the revolution a platform. Afterall, the revolution has picked-up waves and beefed up its popularity when the Indian Women’s National Team bagged gold in the South Asian Games in early 2016 defeating Nepal 4-0 in a one sided finals in Shillong, Meghalaya.

The best of Indian talent was on display that day and little did the Indian camp had to wait as Kamala Devi drew first blood in the 32nd minute. With India spurred by the packed stadia, Kamala doubled India’s lead in the 56th minute and strikes from Bala Devi in the 71st and Ashalata Devi in the 80th minute gave a stellar statement of the domination of the Indian eves and added more fuel to the revolution.

Poetically, the Final of the South Asian Games proved to be the legendary Bembem Devi’s , the flag-bearer of Women’s football in India, penultimate match in India colours – perhaps providing the last spark needed for a wildfire.

“That match was indeed something. We had never played infront of 23,000 odd people and that tells you how much popular Women’s football is in India”, says Bembem as she recollects the memories.

“It was phenomenal to see so many young girls cheering for us and it gave me a lot of hope that the future of Women’s football will only go up from here.”

“With the Indian Women’s League, the AIFF has struck gold by cashing on the growing popularity of Women’s football in the Nation.”

But can it be termed as a revolution?

“It is a revolution. 10 years ago you would not have seen so many Women footballers, Women Coaches or even Women Referees for that matter. It is a holistic development of Women’s football in general”, said Bembem.

There are over 50 AFC certified Women Coaches in the Country, more than 3000 registered professional Women footballers and 355 Women Referees including Uvena Fernandes who officiated as an assistant referee in the Final of the FIF A U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.

Perhaps it is a revolution.

“The Indian Women’s League is a platform for that revolution. You can see Women Referees officiating, Women Coaches coaching and obviously Women playing. It is a holistic approach to further development of Women’s football in India”, stated Bala Devi.

And the revolution even bore results as FC Pune City’s 12 year old Senorita Nongluph not only played in the League but even found the net once. “I faced no opposition from my parents. Infact they were happy when I started to play football”, said Senorita.

“Maybe because football is now very popular among young girls.”

In a patriarchal country, gripped by the waves of modern day feminism where Women are proving repeatedly that they are not only equal to men but also even better in some cases, tipping the scales, perhaps the winds of change are already here and perhaps Women’s football is the revolution’s harbinger.

(Report & Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)