NEW DELHI: With the national women’s football team set for two friendlies against the much higher-ranked Vietnam in Hanoi next month, head coach Maymol Rocky was quite happy with the increase in game-time for her wards.The national team has been on the field for quite a while this year with the Hero Gold Cup, SAFF Championship and AFC Olympic Qualifiers Round 2 in Myanmar. Followed by an exposure tour to Turkey. COTIF Cup in Spain. And two international friendlies against Uzbekistan.
“We have played quite a lot this year,” said Maymol. “It is a massive improvement. In the past, the team did not get too many chances. W used to play against teams against whom we could compete. Now it is all about pushing our boundaries. “Vietnam will be a great test for the side as they are a technically superior bunch. It will show how far we have come,” the 39-year-old added. Vietnam are 34th in FIFA rankings, compared to India’s 58th. The sides will clash on November 3 and 6.
The domestic scenario has not seen the same improvement, though. An 18-day national league and National Championships are the only competitive events players get. But the former defender wants to focus only on the positives.“Things are improving, at least. A Baby League has been planned.
Age-group tournaments are on the rise. The gaps in the calendar are filled by regular national camps. I agree that it is not ideal. But change takes time. The way the federation and government are planning these things, I’m sure we will see a lot more competitions in the future.”
Lack of competitive action can affect the fitness of players, which can get exposed during matches. The men have undergone a sea of change with the rise in professionalism. Maymol feels that even women are slowly becoming more aware of the standards needed to be maintained by a professional athlete.
“During off-season or when the girls are not part of the camp, they stick to their fitness regimen. They don’t stop training. We have a young bunch. Competition for slots is also keeps them motivated. They want to be part of the camp, and they try to remain at the top of their game.”The senior coach has been scouting for players to be a part of the team that will play in next year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup, which will happen in the country.
Maymol is hopeful of seeing the same level of enthusiasm and reach the men’s edition was witness to. "The major takeaway will be the number of people who will become aware of the women’s game. The media attention it will get will result in more financial backing. Parents will start supporting the game, and take kids to watch it. All this will be a huge boost in the long run. In the short term, many youngsters will vie for a spot in the team, which will only help the player pool increase."