India’s female footballers are in despair and uncertain about the future after a FIFA ban 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 “for undue influence by third parties” – member associations must be free from legal and political interference. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is plagued by governance issues. The indefinite suspension had an immediate impact on Indian football, men and women, from professional to grassroots.
The Women’s Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off on October 11 in India, will currently not take place as planned. It would be the country’s first FIFA tournament since 2017.
The penalty also coincided with the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan, where Indian league winner Gokulam Kerala FC was chasing a first title.
They only learned about the FIFA suspension when their flight landed in Tashkent and were not allowed to participate.
“We have worked so hard for the past two months and all the players were preparing to win the AFC trophy as well,” club captain Ashalati Devi, also captain of the women’s national team, told India News.
“It remains our dream to win the title,” said Devi, who described the team as “sad by it all”.
Gokulam released a statement complaining that it had stopped playing “through no fault of our own”.
“Our women’s team is the pride and jewel for all of us and these players have proven to be the best in India,” it said.
Lavanya Verma, who was shortlisted for the U17 World Cup squad, pointed the finger at the AIFF.
“The main reason for the ban is due to bad governance, but we innocent players have to suffer,” said the 17-year-old.
“It’s sad to see the players working so hard and this is what they get.
“I still hope the World Cup takes place in India, but if it doesn’t, it will be a huge blow to everyone.”
‘A lot needs to be done’
India’s female footballers have braved little investment to break through, but they have received only mediocre recognition in a country better known for its frenzied obsession with cricket.
The national team is 58th in the world rankings for women — the men are 104 — and Gokulam became the first Indian women’s team to qualify for the AFC club competition last year.
National referee Rachana Kamani said the FIFA suspension would jeopardize the bright future of the sport in the country and make it less attractive to budding talent.
“In recent years we have seen an increase in women’s football, but the increase could only come if we see top-class football being played constantly,” the 23-year-old told AFP.
“With the ban, activities could decrease and women’s willingness to play decreases, because they see no future in the game.”
The problems of the AIFF meant that former head Praful Patel remained in office after his term in office without a new election.
The Supreme Court declared his presidency invalid and appointed administrators to hold new elections on August 28.
The FIFA suspension will remain in effect until the AIFF regains full control of its day-to-day affairs.
Women’s football in India has already suffered from a lack of resources and the ban will add to the financial pressure, says Jamshed Chenoy, who runs Sharpshooters FC in the city of Ahmedabad.
“The level of support for the women’s game in terms of sponsorship will take a hit,” he told AFP.
“Even today, the players are hindered by a lack of facilities. A lot has to be done for women’s football.”
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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