New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has decided to revamp and restructure women's football in the country, in line with the Strategic Roadmap Vision 2047 as decided on January 7, 2023. In a press conference in the national capital on Friday, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey and Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran announced a few plans apart from the restructuring of women's football that was discussed during the Executive committee meeting.
To give women's football a refreshed look and create improved economic opportunities, the AIFF's has taken up the task of revamping the Indian Women's League (IWL). Starting next season, it will be mandatory for the top eight participating teams in the IWL, to have a minimum 10 Indian players on a fully professional annual contract worth a minimum of Rs 3.2 lakhs.
Having arrived at this decision, the Executive committee of the AIFF, which met at the Football House on Friday, also stressed its goal to further strengthen women's football in India by rapidly expanding the IWL in the coming seasons. While the 2024-25 season will have 10 teams in the top division followed by two other divisions, the 2025-26 season will have a four-tier league with the last tier being the state leagues across the country.
"We have, collectively, as a team, deliberated on various challenges, gaps and have come up with projects and initiatives that will impact the future of Women's Football, in a way that has not happened in India in the past," says AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey.
"The members of the Executive Committee are experienced, and with their wisdom, we were able to come up with solutions that will help us create a vibrant structure. We have taken decisions for the league structure of women's football, minimum salary regulations, and we think this will attract more girls to play football and will help the growth of women's football in India. Women's Football in India will be able to move ahead to reach the global level.
This is a World Cup year for women's football and we will set a lot of activities for the women's game," he added.
The Executive Committee has also decided to create 'Project Diamond' for elite players' development. The FIFA Talent Development Scheme (TDS), led by FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger, will play an active role in Project Diamond. All development wings of Indian Football, including those of ISL and I-League clubs, and elite academies, are expected to be a part of it. Project Diamond is aimed at producing an 'Iconic Star', who has the quality and skills to play at the highest level of the beautiful game.
"An Elite League will be created as a part of Project Diamond -- FIFA Talent Development Scheme officials will visit India early in May 2023 to hold discussions on the subject," said Chaubey.
Apart from these decisions, the Executive Committee has taken up the task of creating a comprehensive grassroots programme, Blue Cubs, that would help in developing the foundation for Blue Tigers. It also includes an elite grassroots programme that is thoroughly multi-dimensional with collaborations at multiple levels including government NGOS, clubs and others. This is again a part of the Strategic Roadmap 'Vision 2047', which aims to engage 35 million children in football by 2026 and take the number up to 100 million by 2047.
Shaji Prabhakaran, the Secretary General of AIFF, said: "We think that this is a day we should celebrate for all the decisions taken towards the improvement of Women's Football. We are hopeful that this is one decision that will excite, incite and inspire women playing football and the supporters of Women's Football in India. I am confident that this will lead to an increase in participation and we will see women stars emerge due to the new thrusts and initiatives."
"We have never had a comprehensive grassroots structure and initiatives and we hope that through Blue Cubs and Project Diamond we will be able to have a robust grassroots and an elite player development structure in our system," he added..
The Executive Committee has decided to give equal importance to the amateur structure in football to raise the level of competitive opportunity and security for the players at this level. To execute this, it has decided to introduce the Institutional League, where 10 teams from across the country will play on a home and away basis.
The winners of the league, where the teams will be decided in a bidding process, may get an opportunity to play in the Cup tournament at the National level. This will surely help the legacy institutional teams get the heritage treatment.