Among the various teams competing at the ongoing Hero Junior Girls’ National Football Championships 2019-20, one team that has certainly caught the eye is Himachal Pradesh. Playing an exciting brand of football, the young girls have won their first two matches – scoring nine goals in all and conceding none.
www.the-aiff.com caught up with Mr. Deepak Sharma, the General Secretary of the Himachal Pradesh Football Association (HPFA) and AIFF Executive Committee member, who talked about the development of the sport in the state and the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup among other things.
The Himachal Pradesh team has been excellent so far in the Junior Nationals. What are your thoughts on their performance?
Our team has a new vigour and the way they have performed, I am sure they can go all the way. With the quarterfinals now coming up, all teams will be well-matched and each match will be a tough one. We have made our plans for our opponents and with the fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude of our girls, we have a good chance of making it to the final and even winning.
As compared to some others, Himachal Pradesh is not known as a ‘footballing state’. What are the challenges faced by you and what is the work being done to develop the sport?
There are a few problems that we encounter as a result of the mountainous terrain in the state – such as long commutes between places and a lack of proper pitches. However, we are working with the state government and authorities and plan to develop four stadiums in the coming years in the state.
We have an academy in Khad, where 60-70 girls train and every month, we are also conducting license courses for coaches and are working hard on all aspects. It will take time for professional football to develop but our results in tournaments such as the Hero Santosh Trophy have been promising and players such as Vishal Kaith, who has played for the senior national team, have also come up from here.
What will be the impact of India hosting the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup next year?
I feel that the announcement has energised the footballing fraternity in our country. Being hosts, we have a chance to put up a great show for the world to see and also raise the level of women’s football in India. I am sure the team will do well and make us proud.
It’s an honour for the AIFF as well as the state associations to be a part of such an event. We already have the experience of organizing one FIFA World Cup and we have to build on that.
Are there any special plans in place for the World Cup?
After the Junior Nationals are over, we have plans to bring in foreign coaches from Holland to help the players and improve them technically as well as physically. We aim to organize as many camps as possible for the benefit of the players and provide a strong pool of talent to choose from.