A FIFA official along with South Africa women’s national team manager and Sweden U-23 women’s team coach also expressed their views on the development of women’s football.

According to Sara Booth, FIFA’s Head of Competitions in the Women’s Football Division, India hosting the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2021 will play a massive role in increasing the popularity of the sport among girls in the country. Indian women’s national team star Dalima Chhibber was also part of the e-summit on Monday.

Speaking at an e-summit by Football Delhi earlier this week, Booth opined that Delhi will ‘feel the positive impact’ of hosting a World Cup. She also heaped praise on the state association for their collaborative efforts with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a bid to improve infrastructure for the overall growth and development of women’s football.

“Football has been a part of social development for many years now and tournaments like these can create a good impact on the players’ lives. So, far we have seen huge potential in India – so much that even just in Delhi alone, you will feel the positive impact of the World Cup,” she said.

“In my country of Northern Ireland, football was seen as a boys’ game back in my playing days. Later, a cultural shift happened and now we see both boys and girls taking the sport equally seriously. In 2017, we hosted the UEFA U-19 Women’s Championship and that was the first time that we had ever shown the spotlight on Northern Ireland. For our players, it was a platform to prove themselves. It helped them progress further in their career and two of them – Megan Bell and Demi Vance – now play for the Rangers FC Women’s Team (alongside India’s Bala Devi).”

“So, these are really important moments for your local players. It will create visibility. It will create accessibility,” she went on. “As of now, Football Delhi and the national federation are understandably working well ahead of the upcoming U-17 World Cup, to develop women’s football across the country.”

Meanwhile, Dalima Chhibber – who was also a part of the e-summit – stressed that only a ‘better culture’ can uplift women’s football. “We need to develop the culture of girls’ football at the club level as well as school and college level,” she said, before adding that lately, things have been looking much better.

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“Participation of girls in football has significantly grown in Delhi in the last few years and with new competitions, more girls will be encouraged to play football – which was not the case when I started to play in Delhi,” Dalima Chhibber said.

Football Delhi has been organizing the Golden League for the past two years. The league has so far been immensely successful in bringing in young girls to play alongside boys. Speaking about the Golden League, AIFF’s Sara Pilot said that not only had they been able to develop skill-sets of both boys and girls, but the improved focus and Football Delhi’s proactive approach was also something the other state associations must adopt.

According to Sweden’s U-23 women’s team coach, Yvonne Ekroth, women’s football can only develop if it gets ‘equal opportunity’ like the men. She also stressed the importance of a ‘level-playing-field’ if girls are to progress further as far as the sport is concerned.

Finally, Lauren Duncan – the manager of the national women’s team of South Africa – compared her country’s footballing scene with that of India and said that women needed to create space for themselves in both administration and coaching. “The condition of women’s football in South Africa is pretty similar to India. We need more females in administration and coaching to provide a more comfortable environment to players,” she explained.

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