Baroda FA 0
SAI-STC Cuttack 4 (Susmita Dalei 50’, Deepa Nayak 53’, Niketa Bishi 87’, Rashmi Jee 90’)
FC Kolhapur City 0
Sethu FC 9 (Dangmei Grace 4’, 20’ p, Ratanbala Devi 24’, 29’, 77, Jabamani Tudu 45+3’, Sabitra Bhandari 57’, 67’, 77’)
Sethu FC 3 (Umapati Devi 56’o.g., Sabitra Bhandari 61’, 70’)
Manipur Police SC 1 (Radharani Devi 44’)
Sethu FC turned around a first-half deficit to beat Manipur Police SC 3-1 and win their first ever Hero Indian Women’s League trophy in the process, at the Guru Nanak Stadium, here on Wednesday (May 22, 2019).
Radharani Devi had put Manipur Police in the lead towards the end of the first half, but an own goal by Umapati Devi put Sethu back in the game, before their Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari turned up the heat to score two goals and win it for the Madurai-based side.
Sethu got off with the more chances in the first half, as they kept the Manipur attackers in check and built on their swift counter-attacks to move the ball up the pitch quickly. Their left winger Sandhiya looked lively in the opening exchanges, as she bombed down the left flank to give a lot of trouble to the Manipur defence.
The India international had the first clear chance a little after 10 minutes, when she received the ball just inside the box and pulled the trigger. However, she scuffed her instep shot and it lacked any sting.
The winger had another good chance when she received the ball from a melee inside the Manipur box, but her shot rolled inches wide of the post.
Manipur’s Bala Devi was tightly marked, and she often had to drop to the midfield or to the right wing, in order to make some space for herself. Bala increasingly began to cut a rather frustrated figure, and was starting to resort to long-range efforts.
Manipur’s goal came at just the right time, with a little over a minute of regulation time left for the first half, as Radharani leaped above the rest to nod in a corner from the left.
Sethu came out with more vigour in the second half, and got the goal that they were looking for, when Dangmei Grace broke down the right and sent in a low cross as captain Indumathi Kathiresan pulled the trigger. However, it took a deflection off Manipur Police defender Umapati Devi, who was unfortunately awarded the own goal.
It took the Madurai-based side around another five minutes to take the lead for the first time this game, as their mercurial Nepalese striker Sabitra Bhandari was set through on goal. the Sethu number nine rounded off the keeper, before slotting it into the net from an angle.
Sabitra, who was relatively quiet for most of the first half, came into her own after this goal that gave her the confidence. She scored her second of the evening, when Sandhiya broke swiftly down the left and played her in through the channel between the left back and the left centre-back. The Nepal international opened up her right foot and slotted it into the bottom corner to give Sethu the two-goal cushion.
From then on, it was a matter of seeing out the Manipur attacks, a responsibility that the likes of Sethu defenders Ashalata Devi and Sweety Devi, and midfielders Sumithra, Ratanbala and Indumathi carried out perfectly.
The ongoing Indian Women's League, which is in its fourth season, has brought out more questions than answers regarding the development of women's football in India.
Gokulam Kerala, Kenkre, KRYPHSA and defending champions Sethu FC have qualified for the semi-final and the fans have been treated to plenty of goals and drama on the field. There have been scintillating individual performances as well.
Credit needs to be given to the owners of the clubs for their investment and trust in women's football despite the risk factor associated with dipping into Indian football. With men's football teams shutting down due to huge losses, some of these club owners have decided to trust the process in this field.
"We feel that there is a gestation period and things will probably take off. The Women's World Cup in France was very positive about what women's football is all about, the level of play and visibility," Joshua Kenkre, CEO, Kenkre FC, told Goal.
He further added, "It is not only about men, but it is also about women. We decided that we should compete, and started the entire process last year. We qualified as champions of Maharashtra but there was a technical fault and we couldn't take part. But that didn't let us down. This year, we planned much better and took it more seriously, qualified as champions and we are now in the semi-finals. We feel that our effort has been more purposeful."
VC Praveen, Gokulam Kerala FC president, spoke to Goal, "We had a team in all age groups so we wanted to start a women's team as well. We went ahead with the plan, probably others can follow us later. If we are going to play, we should field the best team and find the players."
If it was purely down to business and profits, building a football team, that too a women's team in a country like India, wouldn't be the best choice. However, the reward of success in the sport is much bigger for these risk-takers.
"If you are building a team, if your aim is to compete, there is always going to be some financial implication. The budget could be 5 lakh, 15 lakh or 25 lakh. Everything has a cost these days. We need to pay them (coaches and players). If you compare the implication in terms of what you spend on men's team, I feel the financial risk is lesser in women's football. At times it is difficult, but that is football."
That said, IWL also needs better planning and execution from the side of the All India Football Federation (AIFF). First and foremost, the clubs should be informed of the football calendar well in advance. Also, the 'league' should be running for more than a month.
"About IWL, I am sure that the league can be restructured if proper thought is given to the entire process. I don't think enough thought is being given to the IWL process," Joshua said.
"This time, clubs from Bengaluru have come. Players also have become more sensible. They know they can make a big amount only for a month. We can't blame them, they have only one month and they have to make one year's money in a month.
"At least two foreigners should be allowed in IWL. There are quality Indian players who are playing for a few clubs and they won't release them, that is why you see big goal differences in women's league," said Praveen.
Development of women's football is set to be in the limelight soon with India set to host the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup later this year.
"It cannot be that after hosting the World Cup, the league is where it is. Then, hosting the World Cup does not make sense. If we are hosting the World Cup, there has to progress in terms of women's football," opined Joshua.
"U-17 World Cup is coming, there will be more players willing to take it up. AIFF should announce their plans much earlier. There should be proper planning in terms of the calendar. This year it is in January, nobody knows when the league will happen next year," remarked Praveen.
With the world set to turn their attention to India once again for a FIFA event, it is up to the Indian FA to get to work and come up with better plans for their women's top division as per the clubs.
In what can be described as a nail-biting final, Gokulam Kerala were crowned champions of the 4th Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL) after a dramatic 3-2 victory over Kangchup Road Young Physical and Sports Association (KRYPHSA) FC at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Friday (February 14, 2020).
Gokulam Kerala raced to a 2-0 lead through early goals from Prameshwori Devi and Kamala Devi but Dangmei Grace pulled one back for Kryphsa to reduce the deficit before half-time. Ratanbala Devi levelled the scores in the second-half to set her team on course for what would have been a phenomenal comeback. However, it was Sabitra Bhandari who rewrote the headlines by striking a late winner for Gokulam.
The Malabarians took the lead after just 49 seconds on the clock. Kryphsa were caught napping when a speculative clearance from the Gokulam half found Sabitra Bhandari. She got away with her sheer pace before delivering an inviting cross into the box. Prameshwori Devi was the first to react and found the back of the net with an instinctive finish.
The lead could have been doubled just five minutes later after Kamala Devi had put Bhandari through on goal. The latter made no mistake with her finish but her goal was ruled out for a foul on a covering Sweety Devi.
In the 25th minute, Gokulam earned a free-kick just on the edge of the 18-yard box for a foul on Michel Castanha. Kamala Devi volunteered for the dead ball and with a stroke of luck, her curling effort took a deflection of the yellow wall and crept beyond the reach of keeper Linthoingambi Devi, who didn’t stand a chance.
Kryphsa roared back in the 33rd minute to change the complexion of the game altogether. Ranjan Chanu’s immaculate set-piece delivery from the left found Anju Tamang, who managed to flick it to the far post with the back of her head. Gokulam keeper Aditi Chauhan's punch lacked power, leaving Dangmei Grace with an empty goal to aim at. The Kryphsa skipper hit bull’s eye with a flurry of Maroon shirts closing her down as the deficit was reduced going into the break.
The second half resumed with a slightly more cautious approach as either side refrained from hitting full throttle early on.
A clearance from Aditi Chauhan in the 69th minute found Kamala Devi, who put Sabitra Bhandari through on goal but Linthoingambi Devi did brilliantly to come off her line and avert the danger.
With the match picking up pace, Kryphsa’s Roja Devi chipped one into the box and Ratanbala Devi did brilliantly to read her intent and make the overlapping run. She stretched her favoured right foot and got the touch she was hoping for, beating an onrushing Aditi Chauhan to get her side back on level terms.
The drama wasn’t over yet, as Kryphsa’s fairy-tale had a familiar antihero.
With just three minutes remaining of normal time, Manisha Kalyan won an aerial battle on the edge of the 18-yard box, before providing a low-driven delivery across goal. Gokulam talisman Bhandari was there again to finish as she struck a dagger through many Kryphsa hearts.
Five minutes were added on, but Gokulam retained possession and saw out the final, yet precious seconds by introducing Agbo Esperence. Scenes of jubilation erupted at full-time as Gokulam Kerala were crowned the new Hero IWL Champions.
The award-winners at the presentation ceremony were as follows:
Champions: Gokulam Kerala FC (Prize of Rs. 1000000/-)
Runners-up: Kangchup Road Young Physical and Sports Association (KRYPHSA) FC (Prize of Rs. 500000/-)
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Ms. Ratanbala Devi of KRYPHSA FC (Prize of Rs. 125000/-)
Highest scorer: Ms. Sabitra Bhandari of Gokulam Kerala FC (Prize of Rs. 100000/-)
Best Goalkeeper: Ms. Linthoigambi Devi of KRYPHSA FC (Prize of Rs. 100000/-)
Emerging Player of the Tournament: Ms. Manisha of Gokulam Kerala FC (Prize of Rs. 75000/-)