Indian team goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan believes that the country hosting back-to-back tournaments - the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2021 and Women’s Asian Cup in 2022 - is a great opportunity to take women’s football in India forward.
It was earlier this month when the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) gave the All India Football Federation (AIFF) the hosting rights for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Having last participated in the Asian Cup in 2003, it will be a massive kick for Indian girls to be challenging Asia’s best after a 19-year gap, feels Aditi.
"Everyone was feeling low and disappointed for not being able to go out and play during the lockdown. But once we got to know this, every bit of negativity just went away," Aditi Chauhan said during a chat with AIFF TV.
“The Asian Cup comes almost immediately after the FIFA U-17 World Cup. So, it’s a dual advantage for us.
“It’s such a great platform. Everyone is excited and motivating each other. In terms of acquiring fitness, taking care of one’s diet – everyone looks so focused,” the former West Ham United Women custodian added.
Indian women football’s best finish at the quadrennial Asia Cup came in 1979 when they made the final as hosts but finished second-best behind Chinese Taipei.
“This exposure will help us tremendously. I would request everyone - right from spectators, media, and every stakeholder to come forward and make it a grand success."
Raising the level
Aditi Chauhan was surprised by the quality and coverage that the 2019 Women’s World Cup got in France, which made Ellen White, Lieke Martens, Megan Rapinoe and many others a household name across the world.
“I was extremely surprised with some of the moves, and the goals. In fact, it was hard to differentiate it from the men’s World Cup,” Aditi Chauhan said.
“That sent an understanding as to how much we need to improve, and now that we have the U-17 Women’s World Cup, the standard will be the same as that of the boys.” She added.
The Indian women’s football team, under coach Maymol Rocky, has played numerous international friendly matches to gain experience.
In 2019, their exposure tour comprised 23 matches including against Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Spain U-19 as well as Villareal U-20 side, amongst top club sides.
And Aditi Chauhan believes it has gone a long way to help the women footballers.
“If you see the results - we have constantly improved.
“We have regularly had better performances against better teams. As a whole team and a unit, we have been improving.
“We are understanding each other better - the game sense has improved,” Aditi explained.