FIFA official urges India to expand women’s league | football news

After five-time winners India lost to Nepal in the semi-finals to bow out of the SAFF Women’s Championship on Friday, Shaji Prabhakaran, newly appointed general secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), tweeted to call it “one of the worst exits at the SAFF Championships” and added that it was time for a “detailed analysis and re-planning” for the development of the team.

In the current ecosystem of Indian women’s football, that plan includes hosting some multinational tournaments: the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year and the FIFA U-17 World Cup next month, for example. The national teams will compete in them as hosts, playing international matches in exhibition tours and carrying out a domestic league that lasts just over a month.

On a visit to Mumbai ahead of the U-17 World Cup, Arijana Demirovic, FIFA’s head of women’s football development, said extending the duration of the Indian Women’s League (IWL) should be a priority. Starting in 2016 with six teams, IWL now has 12 teams, however this year’s edition started on April 15 and ended on May 26. By comparison, the men’s Indian Super League will run from October 2022 to March 2023.

Arijana said: “I firmly believe that it should be 5-6 months. For us, it is a priority to work with the federation (AIFF) in the coming months to make sure that it is something that we address.

She said. “A lot of players from these developing associations don’t play abroad and have to build their own base. So if your players play six months in their own league, it probably has a better effect on the performance of the national team.”

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Arijana wants more opportunities for players to compete in all age groups, and not just increase them in the run-up to hosting continental or world tournaments.

“Getting that balance between national team activity and a stronger league is important. We have certain windows in which the national teams can play, but outside of them there should be club football, ”he said. “Having more national team games, seeing how we can use those windows, making sure we don’t play one game if we can play three within the same window. But you have to make sure that’s not the only opportunity for the players because the results might not be there, and then the sustainability of that is questioned.”

Arijana hopes that the U-17 World Cup will bring long-term sustainable progress for Indian women’s football. “On my first visit to India in 2014, there were certain structures in place, but for me it was almost seeing them start. Then there has been some development, some things have stopped or we have moved away from different initiatives,” she said. “There is always a lot of work to do. I hope to see progress and development over the years, because I think India has a lot of potential.”

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