India’s women’s football players are in despair and uncertainty about the future as a FIFA ban has stripped the country of a major international tournament and left its best team in limbo. The sport’s world governing body this week suspended the national federation “due to the undue influence of third parties” – member federations must be free from legal and political interference. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is grappling with governance issues. The indefinite suspension had an immediate impact on Indian football, men and women, from the professional to the grassroots level.
The Under-17 Women’s World Cup, starting October 11 in India, will not go as planned at the moment. It was believed to be the first FIFA tournament in the country since 2017.
The punishment also coincided with the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan, where Indian league winners Gokulam Kerala FC were chasing the first title.
He only learned of FIFA’s suspension when his flight landed in Tashkent and was barred from competing.
“We have worked very hard for the last two months and all the players were preparing to win the AFC trophy,” Ashalati Devi, the club’s captain, captain of the national women’s team, told India News.
Describing the team as “distressed by all this”, Devi said, “It remains our dream to lift the title.”
Gokulam made a statement mourning that it was barred from playing through “no fault of ours”.
“Our women’s team is a pride and jewel for all of us and these players have proved themselves to be the best in India,” the statement said.
Lavanya Verma, selected for the U17 World Cup squad, pointed fingers at AIFF.
“The main reason for the ban is poor governance, but we innocent players have to suffer,” said the 17-year-old.
He said, ‘It is sad to see that the players are working so hard and this is what they get.
“I still hope that the World Cup will take place in India, but if it doesn’t happen, it will be a big blow to everyone.”
‘A lot needs to be done’
India’s women footballers have breached the low investment to make inroads, but they have found only tacit recognition in a country known for its frenzied passion for cricket.
The national team is ranked 58th in the women’s global rankings – men are ranked 104th – and Gokulam last year became the first Indian women’s team to qualify for an AFC club competition.
National referee Rachna Kamani said FIFA’s suspension would jeopardize the sport’s bright future in the country and make it less attractive to budding talent.
“We have seen an increase in women’s football over the years, but the growth can only happen if we see top football playing on an ongoing basis,” the 23-year-old told AFP.
“With the ban, activities may decrease and women may have less desire to play because they may not see a future in the sport.”
AIFF’s troubles led to former chief Praful Patel continuing in office even after his term without fresh elections.
The Supreme Court invalidated his presidency and appointed administrators for new elections to be held on August 28.
FIFA’s suspension will remain in place until the AIFF regains full control over its day-to-day affairs.
Jamshed Chenoy, who runs Sharpshooters FC in Ahmedabad city, said women’s football in India was already facing a lack of resources and the ban would add to the financial pressure.
“In the case of sponsors, the level of support for women’s sport will be affected,” she told AFP.
“Even today, players are troubled by the lack of facilities. A lot needs to be done for women’s football.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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