Stakeholders exchange ideas as AIFF hosts Women's Football Strategy Workshop
21 Jun 2024

Sruti Chakraborty & Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: The All India Football Federation hosted the Women's Football Strategy Workshop, conducted by FIFA expert, Mr. Simon Toselli, as a part of the FIFA Women's Development Programme, on Friday, June 21, 2024, in New Delhi.

Members from state associations, IWL clubs, and guests from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the United Nations, UNESCO, and UNICEF, alongwith AIFF Vice President Mr. NA Haris, AIFF Acting General Secretary Mr. M Satyanaranan, AIFF Women's Committee Chairperson Ms. Valanka Alemao and Women's Committee members Ms. Shabana Rabbani, Ms Madhurimaraje Chhatrapati, Ms. Chitra Gangadharan and Ms. Thongam Tababi Devi, attended the workshop to discuss various strategies and planning for the development of women’s football in India and formulate the Women's Football Strategy for the next five to six years.

Welcoming the participants, AIFF Vice President, Mr. NA Haris, said: “Whatever we try to do in women’s football, it should bring good results. And to achieve, we need to focus more. To bring focus, we need to be more disciplined. Football has developed well in India in the last few years, especially in women’s football. Our President Mr. Kalyan Chaubey and the Acting Secretary General, Mr. M Satyanarayan are working hard in this aspect. I am confident that women’s football can do much better at a faster pace.”

The objective of the Women's Football Strategy Workshop is to plan to advance Indian Women’s Football towards a consistent and reflective sporting fabric for the country and build a robust structure through maximum participation at grassroots. It was a combined effort from all stakeholders who gathered to form a holistic approach towards football development to build a successful Women’s National Team. The ultimate goal is to qualify for the 11th edition of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2031 on merit.

AIFF Acting General Secretary Mr. M Satyanarayan said, "We had a very positive workshop and we're also happy to have representatives from UN, UNICEF, and UNESCO here. It was a fruitful day with not just club and state representatives and other stakeholders, but referees as well. We've seen an upsurge in the number of girls playing football thanks to Khelo India Leagues. This strategy comes at an appropriate time, there's nothing better than putting a plan and working towards that.

"Looking at our senior women's team, we hope to climb to 40s in the FIFA rankings in the next few years if we put in the quality work and skills into that. The growth isn't just dependent on the players but the people who manage the game. We discussed all these aspects today and Mr. Toselli's expertise was crucial for us. It's going to be one huge combined effort from states, clubs and sponsors. We need more and more girls playing football in an organised way. Playing Baby Leagues is one thing but having girls play consistent and organised football is our motive."

The key focus areas (pillars) discussed in the workshop were - National Teams, Competitions, Grassroots, Capacity Building and Governance.

Mr. Simon Toselli, FIFA Women's Football Technical expert, said: "First of all, big congratulations to AIFF for putting this strategic workshop together. We've been collaborating for a few months and the aim was to organise this workshop to make the key stakeholders come. The main actors of football here in the Indian clubs are from different regions, from the states, from league organisers. We invited them to propose key strategic directions and pillars such as grassroots, youth development, competition, elite governance, and then to open the discussion and hear the reality, understand their feedback, and inputs, for us to consider and analyse to build the strategy. The workshop was dynamic, we had nice participation, and now we are working on the next step. It's going to be another job to analyse this session to integrate and finalise the strategy."

Ms. Valanka Alemao, the AIFF Executive Committee member and Chairperson of the AIFF Women’s Committee, said: “In women’s football, like in all walks of life, inclusivity is important. If everybody is involved in it, and the team is strong, then the sky's the limit. India is a great country; the beauty of India is its diversity. We have diversity with different languages, religions, cultures and food. But what keeps us going is one heart and one love. It is the scouts we need to concentrate on. We are emphasising on the 2031 World Cup. For that, all of us should gather and work together to see that Indian women make the World Cup. Today, all the stakeholders of women's football were invited. A lot of brainstorming was involved. There was teamwork and a lot of ideas spoken. Now, we need to implement what was said today. That's our task now.”

Mr. Shiv Sharma, Deputy Director General, SAI, said: “It is often said that women’s football in India is better than men’s football. That can be said about lots of other disciplines as well. Hopefully, Indian football will enter the world circuit in the next decade. India is planning to host the Olympics in 2036. I hope Indian women’s football is ready by then so we can field a competitive team.”

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