On a day when AIFF representatives met with FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman to discuss the progression of Women’s Football in India, the lady of the hour spared some time to talk to.
What according to you should be the way forward for Women’s football in India?
AIFF has already done a lot of work in Women’s Football. It’s good to see there are plans in place for a Women’s Academy. I think the next step to push the development further would be to improve the existing structure. A competitive and sustainable school competition would also go a long to attract players at a lower age level and retain them in the game.
With India’s population, I believe there are lot of young girls who are interested to play. There should be opportunities for those young girls to play for a sustained period of time and I’m happy to extend FIFA’s support towards the women’s game here in India.
So what should a nation with a structure already in place do to reach the next level?
I think the most important aspect is the current pathway to the team. The players in the national team have to come from somewhere and if you want the team to improve you have to look at the pathway through which the players are coming up. Ultimately if the leagues and competitions are improved, then the quality of the players coming through will be better, thus improving the standard of the national team.
So, it’s a long term approach right from entering the game till she reaches the national level. It requires a longer time frame, but this is the only formula.
India just played host to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. What are your thoughts surrounding the tournament?
It was incredible! We had come for he FIFA Council meeting, which in fact met for the first time in India. Personally this was my first visit to India and I was really blown away by the stadiums, the fans, the people, the city (Kolkata). There was a feeling in the air that everyone was breathing football. 66,000 people at the final was incredible. It was a record for the U-17 World Cup. It shows the huge potential that football has in India.
It gave me goosebumps, especially the way the crowd were reacting to the two teams. They were getting behind them in a positive way despite the teams not being from the region. Such a reaction for an age group FIFA tournament made me proud of the country.
So based on the organisation of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, what’s your comment on India’s capability of hosting such event?
Purely based on what I saw; India has clearly shown that it has the capacity to host a big event of this type. It has also shown that the appetite for football in the country is huge. Of course as it is with every FIFA tournament you have to go through a certain bidding process and they have certainly shown the interest in doing so.