May 24, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss the good and bad of the Indian Women’s League football tournament. We also look at ITC’s investment in Odisha, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Indian Women’s League Report Card: The Good, the Bad, and the Worst Parts
A thriving football culture has taken hold of many countries. Whether you call it football, soccer, or jalkapallo, it’s the most popularly watched sport. Sure enough, Indians love it too – you’ll find Manchester City fans and Gooners around every corner. But when it comes to Indian football, the enthusiasm dips. Over the years, this apathy has resulted in sluggish maturation of the sport – fewer sponsorships, poor infrastructure, and cyclic unawareness. Perhaps no one has borne the brunt of this apathy more than Indian women footballers. But in the past decade, things have picked up.
On May 21, the Gokulam Kerala FC scored a 5-0 victory over Kickstart FC, marking their three-peat and a blockbuster end to the Indian Women’s League’s (IWL) sixth edition. This season of the IWL has brought with it several victories for women’s football, but it’s also shone a spotlight on the troubles ailing the game.
The absence of popular interest in Indian football is on full display during state-level matches. Men’s teams are used to playing for a crowd of less than 50 spectators. And women’s teams? Having just their family members in the stands or a sparse crowd cheering them on is the norm. What’s to blame is the pan-Indian lack of incentives to watch or even play football.
Despite this, passionate football players continue their grind to break barriers for upcoming sportspersons. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) ranks the Indian women’s football team 61st across the world. FIFA rankings suggest women perform better on the international stage than the men’s team, despite having significantly abridged access to resources and quality infrastructure.
Indian women’s football received a shot in the arm in 1975 when the Women’s Football Federation of India (WFFI) decided to take it under its wing. Before that, women did play, but they weren’t organised at levels higher than the state. In fact, the states where they had exploded earlier, like West Bengal, Kerala, and Manipur, have now become hotspots of football talent.
After women’s football was absorbed into the All India Football Federation (AIFF), their mismanagement compared to men’s football became evident.
In 2012, calls for a women’s national football league grew louder. Kuhelika Guha, a female footballer, circulated an online petition declaring that the time had come for a national football league. It had over a thousand signatories, including Baichung Bhutia, former striker, sports journalist Arunava Chaudhuri, and football consultant Chris Punnakkattu Daniel.
And voila. Four years later, in 2016, the first season of the IWL finally kicked off. It was a much-awaited opportunity for the players to display their skills to their domestic sponsors and fanbase. Indian football fans were also starved of seeing the women play in a league, given how they have made strides in European football. Bala Devi, for instance, is the first Indian woman to sign with a European football club – Rangers FC. A couple of days ago, Jyoti Chauhan became the first Indian to score a hat-trick in a top-tier European football league.
The latest edition of IWL arrived hot on the heels of an important announcement by the AIFF. The federation mandated the top eight teams in the next season to have at least 10 Indian players on a professional annual contract worth a minimum of ₹3.2 lakh. Safe to say, the move has some bearing on the IWL and Indian footballers’ future.
Considering the latest developments in Indian football, we have crafted a report card for this year’s edition of the Hero MotoCorp-sponsored IWL.
VIEW: There’s hope yet
The latest season was hosted at the TransStadia in Ahmedabad, a football-specific venue. It is a celebration of women’s long and tumultuous journey in football. The venue has top-notch facilities and a great field to play in.
The AIFF’s decision will improve the economic incentives available for footballers. A minimum wage is the women sportspersons’ right. It’s also a good sign for aspiring footballers who remain on the fence about playing professionally due to a lack of quality opportunities. The league is also going to get a facelift, with the 2025-26 season having a four-tier system. A structured league will help generate interest in the sport at the grassroots level.
IWL has helped make footballers more visible to big brands who seek partnerships and collaborations with sportspersons to drive their brand awareness. This year, former Gokulam Kerala captain Loitongbam Ashalata Devi signed a contract with Adidas. The team landing a spectacular victory this time could put the players in a much-deserved limelight.
COUNTERVIEW: Long way to go
AIFF indeed came through with the venue this year. But what was missing was everything else. Despite aiming to be a professional league, it fell short on several fronts. There were no post-match interactions, and the entry to the stands was through a neglected gate with no security, cleanliness, or even proper lighting. What’s more, the entire season spanned only 25 days. The games were mainly held during the day, under the scorching Ahmedabad sun, in one of the hottest seasons of the year. The prize money? Only ₹10 lakh.
While the hopeful can hang onto hopes of more visibility, for now, its presence is minuscule. One of the players deemed the planning of the IWL poor. There was a discernible absence of any brands or advertisements throughout the knockout stage, and spectators didn’t even make it over 10 in one of the quarter-finals.
As for the AIFF’s decision, it’s already received flak from Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma. Club owners are considering dropping out of the IWL due to the recent mandate of offering minimum wage contracts. The reason is that the games barely generate any revenue from broadcasting, and the prize money is abysmally low.
- India Ranking – FIFA
- Beacons who lit the way for women’s football in India – Olympics
- AIFF announces minimum wage for women footballers – Hindustan Times
- Indian football, IWL: All you need to know about Indian Women’s League 2023 edition – Scroll
- IWL 2023: Gokulam Kerala fittingly winners again, but India’s top female footballers deserve better – Scroll
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Indian Women’s League is a step in the right direction.
b) The Indian Women’s League is not a step in the right direction.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Is Modi’s Sartorial Flash No Longer a Smash?
For the Left:
Kharge May Be Man of the Match in Karnataka, But His Real Test Will be on Bouncy CWC and Rajasthan Pitches
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Shorter route to the airport (Punjab) – The Punjab government has approved the construction of a shorter alternative route to the airport from Chandigarh. The new route will cut the distance from Junction 63 to Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport in Mohali by about 8 km. The Chandigarh administration has been mulling a shorter route for the past three years. A total of 54 sq km of land has been acquired to construct the new route.
Why it matters: Currently, people have to travel at least 11.5 km to reach the airport from Junction 63. When the new route is finished, the same stretch will be only 3.5 km. The President of India also permitted Chandigarh the permanent transfer of Defence land at the airport.
Manual scavenging deaths (Tamil Nadu) – Chief Minister MK Stalin expressed concern over manual scavenging deaths in the state. At a review meeting with government officials, he said they weren’t paying close attention to the issue and said it is the state’s responsibility to prevent manual scavenging deaths. He cited the Corporation’s efforts to empower workers with modern equipment to help them become entrepreneurs under the Ambedkar Business Champions scheme.
Why it matters: From 2016 to 2020, Tamil Nadu reported the highest number of manual scavenging deaths, with 55. The Champions scheme has a budget of ₹100 crore allocated for 2023-24. There’s an agreement in place between the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board (CMWSSB) and the Dalit Chamber of Commerce to train the workers.
ITC’s new facility (Odisha) – Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated ITC’s new state-of-the-art integrated consumer goods manufacturing and logistics (ICML) factory at Khurda. It’s the first ICML factory in the state and covers an area of 35 acres. It’s planned in such a way that it can accommodate seven production lines to produce products of ITC’s food brands. It has data analytics and cutting-edge digital infrastructure, and 55% of the factory workers will be women.
Why it matters: This is the latest move by the government to make the state an industrial hub. The food processing sector is one of those prioritised in the Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR) 2022 announced by the state government. For the state, having a conglomerate like ITC is a significant milestone.
Wolf population (Gujarat) – A dedicated census of wolves in the state by the state forest department shows their numbers at 150. This was the first official survey of the wolf population in Gujarat. The declining population in the Little Rann of Kutch spurred the forest department to set up a programme to release zoo-based wolves. About 30 such wolves will be released into the wild. This particular region has about 10 wolves and 30 each in and around the Velavadar and Gir sanctuaries.
Why it matters: Some communities resort to killing wolves and burning wolf dens to protect their livestock. Officials are hoping to raise awareness and garner support to educate people. They also intend to pay compensation to anyone whose livestock gets damaged by wolves. There’ll also be regular surveys of the wolf population.
Withdrawing the AFSPA (Assam) – Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will likely be completely lifted from the state by this November. He cited the improved law and order situation in the state as the reason. He also said the state would bring in ex-military personnel to train the police to help transition away from the central forces. Personnel from different battalions will be used exclusively for policing and nothing else.
Why it matters: As of now, the AFSPA is still active in eight districts and one sub-division of the state. The Act gives armed forces the right to arrest people and search them without warrants and allows them to use force without a magistrate’s permission.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$6 billion – Ola Electric is now valued at $6 billion following a successful $300 million funding. The company plans to use the money to increase its two-wheeler production capacity from 0.5 million to 2 million a year.