#DelhiMoves Fitness

Make way for India’s first amateur women’s football league

The Kica Women’s Football League is all about celebrating the spirit of the sport

On a chilly Friday evening, a group of women between 13 and 40 warm up, dribble, and chase a ball to score, at Conscient sports arena in Vasant Kunj. Most of the players are working professionals, students, or homemakers, and are practising for the Kica Women’s Football League, which is the first for amateur women players in India.

“Football was a big part of my life in Vasant Valley school,” says Aneesha Labroo, 28, who started Kica as a sportswear brand exclusively for women three years ago. Aneesha, who started playing football as a 10-year-old, adds that she was a part of the first Delhi state team, going on to play the nationals twice. Later, she went to the U.S. for a university degree, after which she worked in advertising in New York, for four years, losing touch with the sport.

About 10 months ago, Aneesha took up football again. “From playing among just four friends to actually becoming a massive group through social media was an encouragement for us. Gradually, we would play a game every Tuesday and Thursday,” she says.

Prompted by an event she organised that brought beginners and long-time players together, and a football-loving father, she thought of a women’s league. The aim: to ignite the passion to play football, raise fitness and confidence levels, and build team spirit.

Coaching two teams in the Kica league — Pure Fire FC and the Lalit Lionesses — is Swati Rawat, 27, a former India team player and currently a physical education teacher at DPS R. K. Puram. She says women’s football has come a long way since her playing days. “As a 14-year-old, I was the only girl and people used to say ‘girls don’t play football’; the coaches were least interested in coaching a girl.”

It was only coach Naveen Kanwal who paid attention to her talent and coached her individually, leading her to eventually get picked for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 championship. Then there were just three girls football teams in Delhi; today, there are 40.

Swati also plays for the Pure Fire FC , while Aneesha plays for Paper Pipe Pirates. “It’s all in the spirit of spreading the popularity of the game,” says Swati. She has a larger pool from which to pick players today, with a number of women’s colleges having their own football teams: Jesus & Mary College (for which she used to play), Lady Shri Ram, Bharati, and Janki Devi Memorial, to name a few.

One of the players in the league’s HFW Warriors, Dana Smith, 16, also plays centre forward in her school’s football team. Originally from England, Dana has been in India for 12 years now, and says the sport has taught her togetherness and has given her the ability to socialise with different age groups. “The love and passion for the sport is amazing to see,” she says .

It’s still an uphill task to convince parents, whose reasons for not encouraging girls to play the sport range from getting ‘tanned’, scarring bruising, to studies ‘suffering’ and bones breaking. Swati tries to overcome these hurdles by playing with the girls and counselling parents. She organises matches between different classes to bump up their competitive skills.

“It took two years to make a good team and now there are 50-60 girls who play football; one represents Delhi,” she says.

The Kica Women’s Football League, season 1 has six teams of seven players each. The women will be playing on a small turf for 50 minutes with a break. Registrations for season two will be announced after the completion of season one.

Every Sunday until March 8th, 2020; Conscient Sports Arena, Vasant Kunj; 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 9:33:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/make-way-for-indias-first-amateur-womens-football-league/article30790122.ece

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