Footballs

How Female Fans Are Improving Equal Opportunities in Indian Football

Although football is still a male-dominated sport in India – due in part to a chronic lack of funding – could that soon change? Women in sport face numerous social barriers all over the world, and Indian women’s football is no exception. But the good news is that the rise of female football fans could start to improve equal opportunities in Indian football, encouraging participation and hopefully boosting funding.

In this article, we’ll explore how Indian football is attracting more female fans. Through social initiatives and developments in the women’s league, its possible we could see a more level (football) playing field within the next few years.

The Launch of Grassroots Programmes

The Indian Super League’s grassroots programme is proving invaluable in broadening access to ‘the beautiful game’. The ISL launched this initiative to enable children aged between six and 14 to learn to play football, develop their skills, and potentially launch a professional football career.

As part of the national initiative, Mumbai City F.C also launched a grassroots programme to recruit young football players from the Mumbai area. Since the programme started, Mumbai City has planned around 50 football festivals so far and already reached more than 3,000 children – many of whom come from surrounding rural villages.

The Hero ISL Children’s League

Because female football players in India (and elsewhere) experience high levels of prejudice, the Indian Super League is keen to introduce girls to the game from a young age.

Its Hero ISL Children’s League has a dedicated section for female footballers – and although just 2,056 of its 15,217 total participants are female at present, it aims to change this in the future. Over the next three years, the league hopes to have expanded across 12 different states and engaged around 40,000 children.

As part of this recruitment drive, we’re likely to see a renewed focus on attracting young girls to the scheme. The Founder and Chairperson of Football Sports Development Limited, the company that operates the Indian Super League, is Nita Ambani. She has said: “Football in India has immense potential and requires unearthing talent at the grassroots level. We will ensure that children get maximum exposure to the best facilities and training to become stars of tomorrow and take Indian football to greater heights.”

Revival of the India Women’s National Football Team

After being delisted from the FIFA’s world rankings for being out of action in 2009 – and after another year-long hiatus in 2012 – the India Women’s National Football Team is starting to turn a corner. This was partly thanks to the success of the Mumbai Women’s Football League in 2009-10, which was so popular that hopes for a renewed national team began to gain momentum.

Although the team is yet to participate in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the team only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics. With better outreach at a grassroots level, it’s hoped that an increase in female fans will drive support for the national team – and potentially help it succeed on a global level.

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