India went through a pretty chaotic and unpleasant period recently, which was full of fights inside the boardroom and litigations in the country’s courts. FIFA also suspended the All India Football Federation (AIFF) a couple of months back and its hosting rights for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was in danger due to that.
But the suspension has been lifted now and India have been cleared to host the mega event once again. With that, India is also looking to put the memories of this forgettable time behind. Moreover, with the return of the Indian Super League, Indian football has been allowed a new lease of life and some much-needed room to breathe.
The ninth edition of the ISL will also see the return of the home-away format and the fans are also expected to fill the stadiums as the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted now. With new administrative officers at the helm in AIFF, prestigious tournaments like the ISL and the Women’s World Cup are expected to give way to a highly productive era in Indian football.
India is also set to participate in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and the ISL will prove to be a pretty competitive rehearsal for the players. A good performance in the AFC Asian Cup will enhance India’s chances of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which is set to be a 48-team affair. Eight spots are guaranteed for Asian teams in the mega event but India needs to enter the top 10 rankings in Asia to qualify by that time.
Currently, India are ranked 19th in Asia and 106th overall in the FIFA rankings. They need to improve their performance considerably in case they want to stand a realistic chance of qualifying for the mega event. The men’s team is in that stage currently and has all the necessary resources to improve their performance. The U17 World Cup in 2017 brought in the changes that we see today. The likes of Suresh Wangjam, Aniket Jadhav and Lalengmawia Apuia developed together as players in AIFF’s developmental side the Indian Arrows. They went on to play in the ISL and also for their national teams later on.
However, such a pathway is yet to be established in Women’s football. The U-17 Women’s World Cup, which is about to kick off, can help in laying down a similar pathway for the young Indian girls. But the authorities and the officials also need to be equally invested to bring that change in, exactly like the way they were while changing things in men’s football.