The Indian women’s team has travelled to Sri Lanka with the sole aim of defending SAFF Cup title and they kicked off their campaign in style as they dispatched Bangladesh by three goals to nil in their opening group encounter yesterday. With the men’s team retaining their Nehru Cup crown last week in New Delhi, a win here for the ladies will mark an unprecedented high for Indian football in the subcontinent. The Indian team are downright favourites for the tournament and are expected to face resistance only from the likes of Nepal whom they defeated in the inaugural edition of the SAFF Cup in 2010.
SAFF Women’s Championship 2012 and its Preparation
The first phase of the preparatory camp for the ongoing SAFF Cup kicked off in July under the watchful eye of head coach Mohammad Shahid Jabbar and it included a group of forty five probables. The list was then cut down to thirty as the girls continued to train for the entire month of August at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Kolkata. The final list of 20 players was announced on the last day of the camp and the poster girl of Indian women’s football, Oinam Bembem Devi, was chosen as the captain. Manipur and Orissa have dominated Indian women’s football for decades now and as expected fourteen out of the shortlisted twenty girls belonged to these two states.
India has been drawn in Group A alongside Bangladesh, Bhutan and hosts Sri Lanka, like they were drawn a couple of years back. The final is scheduled to be played on 16th of September in Colombo. India managed to score remarkable forty one goals in the first edition of SAFF Cup in 2010 and conceded only a single goal. Replicating the same level of dominance in Sri Lanka will be a tough task for the Indian ladies but India does possess the firepower in their ranks to decimate opponents. After a slow first half against Bangladesh, the Indian girls raised the tempo of the game as they managed to score three goals in the second half of the match. A lot is expected from the likes of Sasmita Malik, Rebika Devi, Ashalata Devi and of course Bembem Devi.
Next on the cards for India is their match against the hosts Sri Lanka, who according to FIFA rankings are at the last spot. Sri Lanka would have the home crowd behind them but even the support of the crowd might not prove to be enough for them when they take on a far superior Indian side. The last opponents for India in the group stage will be Bhutan who are placed a whopping twenty places below India in Asia itself. With Indian girls slowly warming up as it was visible in the second half against Bangladesh, it seems like Sri Lanka and Bhutan will have a tough ordeal ahead of them.
No Country for Sports Women?
As USA is set to take on the German national team in the finals of the U-20 Women’s World Cup today in Japan, it seems AIFF has still not learnt from their past negligence and one has to track back exactly one year to September 2011, which was the last time when the Indian side played an international match. One fails to understand the AIFF’s logic behind the step motherly treatment it has been giving to women’s football ever since it took over its reins from Women’s Football Federation of India in 1991. In the three friendlies that the girls played against Bahrain in Bahrain, they managed to pick up two wins but it had absolutely no affect on the AIFF as they had to depend solely on preparatory camps for one year to get ready for defending their SAFF title, AFC qualifying games and SAF games.
Despite virtually getting zero assistance from the AIFF over all these years, Indian eves are ranked 52nd in the world and 11th in Asia much higher than their male counterparts. The AIFF has finally shown some positive signs when it comes to developing the game at the grass root level in our country but majority of that have been focused towards men’s football. One feels that even if half of that effort is spent towards the development of women’s football that they can show a much better performance at the global level and can teach the men’s team a lesson.
Goalkeepers: Sita Sharma, Aditi Chauhan.
Defenders: Ashem Romi Devi, Loitongbam Ashalata Devi, Kangujam Rebika Devi ,Alochana Senapati , Suprava Samal , Tuli Goon.
Midfielders: Yumnam Kamala Devi, Supriya Routray, Lochana Munda, Yumlembam Premi Devi, Nameirakpam Montesori Chanu, Oinam Bembem Devi.
Forwards: Irom Prameshwori Devi, Salam Rinaroy Devi, Raju Suganya, Laishram Naobi Chanu, Pinky Bompal Magar, Sasmita Malik .
Head Coach: Mohammad Shahid Jabbar.
Assistant Coaches: Mutum Surmala Chanu & Pratima Biswas.
Goalkeeping Coach: Ranjeeta Mohanty.
Physiotherapist: Khyati Sharma.
Trainer: Poulami Ghosh.
Referee: Maria Piedade Rebello.
Manager: Sudeshna Mukherjee.