New Delhi: The third edition of the Indian Women’s League kicks off on Sunday when Gokulam Kerala FC go up against the Rising Students Club at Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Stadium.
With 12 teams in the fray this year, this is going to be the biggest season of the league.
The nascent tournament had begun with six teams in its inaugural year in 2016 and had grown to seven participants in the final league phase in the second edition.
This year, the 12 teams have been divided into two groups. Group I consists Rising Students Club, Gokulam, FC Alakhpura, Hans Women Football Club, Central SSB Women Football Club and Panjim Footballers while Group II has Manipur Police, Sethu FC, Bangalore United FC, SAI-STC Cuttack, FC Kolhapur City, and Baroda Football Academy.
The #HeroIWL kick-starts today! 🤯
We’ve got 2⃣ cracking matches to get the tournament underway! #FCAHFC #RSCGKFC #ShePower #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/DcGuDl7yvC
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) May 5, 2019
While Eastern Sporting Union from Manipur, the team that had lifted the trophy in 2016 and finished runners-up in the second edition, are the notable absentees this year, defending champions Rising Students Club from Orissa start as favourites again.
Tamil Nadu-based Sethu FC, a club that boasts of six players from the Indian women’s team that played in the recent Olympic Qualifiers, also look formidable.
In a statement released on Saturday, General Secretary of the All India Football Federation, Kushal Das said, “Women’s football in our country is going through an exciting phase. We have seen the Indian Women’s Team produce some great results at the international front.”
“We are sure to see the rise of more talented players in the third season of the Indian Women’s League. I would like to thank the Punjab Football Association for their support in hosting the IWL, and wish the participating clubs all the best for the tournament in Ludhiana,” he added.
Interest in women’s football in India is at an all time high after the exploits of the senior National team in the SAFF Championship and the recently concluded Olympic Qualifiers.
The country has also been bestowed with the honour of hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020 and based on reports, this league should soon pave way for the initiation of junior tournaments across the length and breadth of the country in the coming year or so.