Women's Football
Heart broken, but not shattered
16 Feb 2023

The success of Women’s Football is high on the Federation’s list of priorities, and as per the objectives in Vision 2047, we have begun the process of maximising the International windows in order for our players to play more competitive matches. The-aiff.com is present with the Senior Women’s National Team in Chennai to follow their progress as they prepare for the AFC Women's Olympic Qualifiers.

Soumo Ghosh
AIFF Media Team

CHENNAI: Football is a curious game. A 0-0 stalemate and a 2-2 draw may effectively be the same result, but it could have an entirely different effect on a team, depending on which side you are on.

The Senior Indian Women’s Team, for the most part, controlled the pace of the play and dominated the proceedings against Nepal in the first of two International Friendly matches in Chennai. However, the prospect of a 2-0 victory turned sour at the last hour, when Nepal’s Sabitra Bhandari scored two goals within the space of three minutes right at the end, to send her teammates and coach Anant Thapa into delirium; for India, perhaps a 0-0 draw would have felt much better than having the victory snatched from under their feet.

India Head Coach Thomas Dennerby was quite understandably gutted after the match. “I am definitely very disappointed with the result. This game should have absolutely ended up 2-0 for India. Taking the right decisions on minute 90, when you’re 2-0 up is a part of the game. You just can’t give the ball away outside your own box. You have a goal kick, you send it far and let the other team start again from behind,” he said.

“We have played many tougher matches where we did not concede for the 90 minutes, but here one small mistake, one lack of concentration, and the other team comes back. We should have scored 3-4 goals in the second half, and we should have closed this game when we had the chance,” continued Dennerby. “But we gave it all away, and that is just not done at all.”

The mood was rather sombre amongst the Blue Tigresses after the match. One look at the crestfallen scowls on the faces around the Indian dugout, and it was quite clear what was going on in everyone’s minds. Sheer regret.

The team still stuck around on the pitch after the game, where they were greeted by first the two junior teams (U-17s and U20s), who are also training in Chennai, and had come to watch the match, and then by the Federation’s Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran, who was ever consoling of a heartbroken bunch, looking to pull up their spirits before the next game. These were, after all, friendlies, mere preparation for bigger and better things – the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers First Round.

Dr Prabhakaran greeted the players and said, “You all played a tough and resilient side, and it was a difficult game, but let’s not dwell on that. Let’s all focus on the next game. I want to tell all of you that we are taking every step possible so that you all get the best facilities for you to train and prepare for big tournaments like the Olympic Qualifiers.

“Regardless of results you all make India proud with your performance. You all have dedicated yourselves to football, and everyone admires you for it. I know that all of you give your level best, and that is why it is so important that we take football forward through you,” he said. “We are definitely working to make everything better, and I am sure all of you will focus to get better performances in the future as well. Take rest and recover well.”

Indeed women’s football is something that the Federation is looking to push in a big way in the years to come. While results on the pitch is one thing, an overall improvement off it is what would bring about a holistic development of the women’s game.

The Hero Indian Women’s League, which was a two-month tournament at best, is now being targeted to be a more active league that will ensure that the players get to play and train continuously for seven months a year. This is something that every woman player in India has always wanted, something that promises to increase the level of competition and match-readiness of players across the land. While it was a difficult result to digest for every fan of Indian Football, the general understanding was that the Blue Tigresses are preparing for bigger and better things, and roadblocks such as these are all a part and parcel of the journey. The hopes and dreams of a nation still remain on the shoulders of a side perched 61st on the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, and 12th in Asia.

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