WOMEN AND FOOTBALL – IT’S NOT A MAN’S GAME ANYMORE!
Football fans had a new icon in the Women’s World Cup Finals of 2015 in Carli Llyod. The 32-year-old from New Jersey scored a hat-trick against Japan to win the world cup for the United States.
Lloyd, an attacking midfielder had scored the winning goal in the 2008 Olympics and scored both goals in 2012 Olympic final against Japan. In July this year, she scored three goals in the first 16 minutes against Japan–the first hat trick in World Cup final annals.
US soccer team has been the most successful international team. It has won three Women’s World Cup titles, four Olympic women’s gold medals, seven CONCACAF Gold Cup wins and Ten Algarve Cups.
The team was honoured with their ticker-tape parade in New York City following their most recent World Cup win. This was first ever for a women’s sports team. In October this year, President Barack Obama felicitated them at the White House. This high popularity of the team has managed to put Women’s soccer on the map in a big way.
Women’s leagues were formed in the early 1920’s in England. Their growing popularity threatened the Men’s English Football Association’s, so they were banned from playing soccer in the same fields as men.
It was not until 1971 that the ban was finally lifted in England. This triggered a resurgence of sorts for the Women’s Soccer Leagues. Post this ban, popularity in Women’s soccer in the US started growing.
One of the first major steps in the growth of their popularity was the First Women’s World Cup in 1991 in China organised by FIFA. US Women’s Soccer team won this inaugural title that added further momentum to the popularity of the sport worldwide.
Women’s football in India has not had the relative head start over the rest of the world that the men’s game has had. It also has not had the chance to spread through the country like its male counterpart.
We at STAIRS feel different. For the first time this year we included girls in the Stairs School Football League. Moreover, they are doing well.
The women’s game, like the men’s game, also has its early pioneers in the state of West Bengal. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan started women’s club sides in the 2000–01 season and they participated with other teams in the Calcutta Women’s Indian Football League. India’s women soccer team has come a long way since then. They first came into the limelight with their participation for the qualifiers in March of 2011 for the 2012 Olympics Soccer Finals. They beat Bangladesh in the first round but were knocked out in the second round by Uzbekistan. Some of our female players such as Chitra Gangadharan who was selected to play for the All Asian Star team and Jaanki Kotecha was selected as captain of the All Asian Star Team in 2008–2009, have become internationally recognized. In February 2000, Sujata Kar and Alpana Sil became the first Indian footballers to sign a contract outside India when they signed on with TSV Crailsheim in Germany. The team has its up and downs over the years.
Over the last few years, the national team has performed well in the Asian tournaments. The current squad is led by Ngangom Bala Devi, with potential stars like Aditi Chauhan, who plays club football in West Ham FC. The team’s current FIFA ranking is 56 as of September 2015, which is higher than the Indian Men’s soccer team. Despite better ranking and performance than the boys’ team, the girls’ football team has not got its due. Earlier this year AIFF was rooting on the idea of starting an ISL-Like League for women, but come year end, that thought has not translated into reality. However, Pune FC conducted trials for the same, becoming the first club to do so. Let’s hope the women players get more competitive landscape to hone their skills, and we get to see some great grassroots football from them in 2016.