How Gokulam Kerala women’s football team became champions

The Gokulam Kerala women’s team emerged champions at the Indian Women’s League last week. Here’s what is behind their victory

Last week was VC Praveen’s most memorable one. At Coimbatore last Wednesday, Gokulam Kerala scored a badly needed 1-0 win against defending champion Chennai City in a crucial I-League match. Two days later, the women’s team of Gokulam did even better: it emerged champion at the fourth edition of the Indian Women’s League at Bengaluru. Gokulam Kerala is the only I-League or ISL team to have a women’s team.

Praveen, president of Gokulam Kerala, is delighted. “I had a lot of faith in the team and, after watching the other teams in the opening rounds, I felt our girls had the potential to win the title,” he said. “It is remarkable our women’s team has won the league before the men. This victory is no doubt an inspiration for the men’s team, too.”

He attributes the success to coach PV Priya, who has been with the team from its inception. She feels the team succeeded this year because it invested in some top quality players. “Another factor is experience,” says Priya. “We had a good team last year too, but lack of experience let us down.” (Gokulam had reached the semifinals last year. To make it to the League this year, the team had to play in the qualifying phase because Kerala doesn’t have a State league).

It’s a Goal
  • At Bengaluru, Priya’s girls were in top form. They defeated Bangalore United 5-1, Odisha Police 7-0, Sreebhumi FC 1-0, Kenkre FC 10-1 and Bidesh XI 5-0 in the preliminary stage.
  • In the semifinals, they shocked defending Sethu FC 3-0 to set up the final clash with Kryspha. They won the exciting final 3-2.

In the final, Sabitra Bhandari, the Nepalese star who played a big role in Gokulam's triumph, netted the winning goal. She was also the top-scorer in the tournament with 19 goals. Yumnam Kamala Devi, from Manipur, was the other main scorer with eight goals. “I was very happy that I could bring both of them to Gokulam this year,” says Praveen. “Since the pool of quality players in India is very small, it is imperative that you get the best of the lot in your side.”

To get big stars, you have to spend big. “Running a women’s club is almost as expensive as running a men’s club,” explains Praveen. “But that didn’t stop me from forming the club. Gokulam Kerala believes in equal opportunity to women. My next aim is to have a team that has at least half the players from Kerala.”

That may not be easy, given the state of women’s football in Kerala. “We still have a long way to go, especially when compared to States like Manipur, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand,” says Priya. “But I see some potential among our young players.”

Praveen hopes Gokulam’s succes at the Indian Women's League will be a big boost to the game in Kerala. “If women’s football has to improve in India, the All India Football Federation has to make it mandatory for all clubs to form women’s teams. As of now we are the only one to have a women’s team.”

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:50:47 PM |

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