With IWL-2, home-and-away league in place, AIFF records historic rise in women’s footballers

New Delhi: With a full domestic calendar in place, Indian football has recorded a historic 138 percent surge in registration of women players for the last two years, indicating a healthy growth in the popularity of the sport as well as an increase in young female athletes opting for football, professionally.

According to the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) Central Registration System (CRS) data, India has 27,936 registered female footballers as of March 2024. This is a massive 138 % rise in the number of female footballers in the last 21 months on the 11,724 players registered in June 2022.

The AIFF claims that the policies undertaken by the current management have helped create a conducive environment for women’s footballers in the country. “It’s a very positive trend we are witnessing in India,” said AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey. “To have as many as 16,212 new female players in our football ecosystem is an encouraging sign that we are on the right track in our planning for women’s football in India.”

Chaubey attributed the increase to a slew of measures including course correction that was brought in for the Indian Women’s League (IWL) in the current season of 2023-24, in addition to the subsequent introduction of a second division competition IWL-2. “Availability of live broadcast has indeed helped in enhancing the profile of the sport,” he added.

The 2022-23 season of IWL was played among 16 teams at a single venue in Ahmedabad, with Gokulam Kerala FC winning their third consecutive title.

This season (2023-24) the format was changed to ‘home-and-away’, which was a big success, appreciated by the clubs, players and fans. Odisha FC emerged victorious ending GKFC’s 3-year-long dominance and will represent India in the AFC continental competition. The inaugural IWL-2 saw the participation of 15 clubs at the group stage, six of which have qualified for the final round scheduled next month in Kolkata, the IAFF release said.

India now boasts of 24 active State Leagues for women’s football, which acts as the 3rd tier of the pyramid and has helped the national federation populate the sport among the masses.

“These are baby steps we have taken in the last 16-18 months, having a focused approach on women’s football. The current season is a breakaway year for Indian football in many ways.

“We are noticing a rapid growth in the women’s football in India. Players and clubs are getting more game time due to the increase in the number of matches in the domestic circuit, making it increasingly competitive. Opportunity to play the AFC organised continental championship – AFC Women’s Cup – is a big motivator for Indian clubs today,” said Kalyan Chaubey, adding that, “women’s football will have a priority focus in the coming years,” he said.


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