Oinam Bembem Devi

First-ever Indian woman footballer to be honoured with Padma Shri, Oinam Bembem Devi has welcomed the move of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to reduce the number of foreign players in the I-League.

The AIFF executive committee recently decided to implement the 3 foreigners + 1 Asian recruit rule for I-League matches from 2020-21 season.

“I have always believed that reducing the number of foreign players will be an advantage for the Indian players to play more games and improve. Better foreign players but less number on the field will be helpful for the local guys to compete with them and grow. I’m really happy with this development,” the former midfielder from Manipur told The News Mill.

Earlier, five players could play in the playing 11. As far as the Indian Super League (ISL) is concerned, a statement from AIFF said “FSDL (Football Sports Development Ltd) will work with the AIFF and will present a plan to the Executive Committee on the way forward for foreign players in the next couple of months. This plan would come into effect after the 2020-21 season”.

A veteran of 85 matches, highest by any woman players in India, Bembem Devi also appealed the ISL and I-League clubs to start their women’s team so that women football can be developed with the same pace.

“Clubs play a major role in development of football which we have seen in the European countries. Similarly, here in India also they can play a role. When we say development of football, women’s is also needed to give the same amount of importance. Over the years, the women football has improved. If these clubs can come up with their women’s team, it will be a huge boost for the game,” Bembem who also played for New Radiant SC of Maldives said.

So far, I-League clubs Gokulam Kerala and East Bengal FC and ISL-side Pune City FC have their women teams. Gokulam Kerala women’s team is the reigning champion of the Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL).

“The more teams mean more players will get to play. More matches will help in growing the players in confidence. To form a women’s team and participate in the leagues is very difficult. As these clubs already have their own set up, it becomes easier for them to form a women team and march ahead,” she added.

Bembem also appreciated Gokulam Kerala for their women team which has won the 4th edition of IWL.

“This year, the way Gokulam Kerala women players played is really fantastic. The performance level has gone up. The kind of facilities have could provide, is difficult for others to give to the players. So, these ISL and I League clubs can play a huge role,” the 40-year old former midfielder nicknamed as Durga of Indian football said.

On the FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup which has been re-scheduled from January next year, she said that performances of the players will be affected because of the lockdown.

“The girls have been doing their own workouts for fitness and other skills. That’s fine. But as it’s a team game, so coordination is very important when you go out to play in the middle. So, it’s very important to practice as a team and understand each others’ game. This problem will be for all the teams but some foreign teams have their indoor practice facilities which will be beneficial for them. So, pray that things get normal soon,” she added.

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About Abdul Gani


Abdul Gani is a Guwahati-based journalist