The league will run adjacent to Hero Super Cup and I-league 2nd Division.
Bembem Devi, the name synonymous with Indian Women’s Football for the past couple of decades is on another quest. And this time it is defending Eastern Sporting Union’s crown in the Hero Indian Women’s League 2017-18 which starts on Monday, March 26. Her goal is simply ‘to take back home what we earned last year’.
‘We are the defending champions and our aim is to take back home what we earned last year’, declared the Durga of women’s football in India.
Dispelling notions of overconfidence she says, “Being the defending champions, there is always an added pressure on you. The weight of expectations can be overwhelming. But if we as a team are not confident enough in our abilities then there is no point in taking the field.”
“There is absolutely no alternative to not believing in yourself and playing like champions”, she added.
The IWL had seen a reach of 8.8 million on Facebook last year, even the Qualifiers for Season 2 in Kohlapur had generated sizeable interest, Bembem sees this as a very positive sign, “The interest in Women’s Football and football in general is growing in India. And if we can showcase good football, this interest will grow even further.”
“It would be even better if existing teams in the top tiers take interest in having their own Women’s team. I want to thank Gokulam Kerala FC from the bottom of my heart for taking active interest in the women’s game.”, the Arjuna Award winner added.
The IWL was held in Delhi last year and this time it finds home in Shillong in the North East and Bembem is excited about it. “We all know how passionate the North East is about football. We can expect good crowds to come in and support us”, said the hopeful Coach.
Recent times have seen new power centres come up with Tamil Nadu winning the Senior Women’s National Football Championship and Chandigarh coming on top in the Sub-Junior Girls National Football Championship. Both times, it was Manipur who came up short.
“It is actually good that new teams are winning at the national level. It shows how the game is spreading in different parts of the country.”, was her assessment.
Going on to add she said, “I want to congratulate Tamil Nadu for the super display in Cuttack and also the AIFF for the work they have done at the grassroot level across the country.”
Coming back to the IWL and crux of her team which is Manipuri she said, “Well some of the players played at the Senior NFC and they learnt that you can’t take anything for granted in football. This year we have brought in a few players and are not just resting on our previous achievements.”
“Just wait for us to take the field and our performances will speak for themselves”, clearly sounding out the war bugle for rival teams.