But with the Odisha government taking responsibility for bringing the country’s premier women’s league back after a two-year hiatus, the Indian Women’s League (IWL) season five will begin Friday at three state venues — the Capital Ground, the 7th Battalion Ground and the Kalinga Stadium – where 66 matches will be played between April 15th and May 26th, with 12 teams qualifying.
Whilst defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC will continue to be favorites this edition, there are debutantes such as Chhattisgarh’s Mata Rukmani, Colaba’s PIFA Sports FC and AIFF’s Indian Arrows Women development team keen to establish themselves at the top and as lone runners to profile national league of women. The hosts will have two teams in Sports Odisha and Odisha Police representing the state at the tournament.
Of course, there will be some disappointment for fans of Indian women’s football as no team from the North East make it to the finals of the league. With no league from the region in the AIFF’s central registration system, despite the outstanding performances of clubs such as Krypsa FC and Manipur Police in recent seasons, it was left to their state league winners YMC to secure a place in the finals via the qualifiers. However, they lost to Ahmedabad ARA FC newcomers to lose the privilege.
In Friday’s simultaneous opening games, league debutants and three-time West Bengal Women’s League Kanyashree Cup winners SSB Women will begin their campaign against Hans Women’s FC, also three consecutive season champions of the league in Delhi.
The 4:00pm kick-off at the 7th Battalion Ground will coincide with the clash at the Capital Ground between newcomers PIFA Sports and Kickstart FC, league winners of Karnataka, who are competing in the league for the second time in a row.
In the evening at 19:30 at Kalinga Stadium, the Indian Arrows Women youngsters take on Sirvodem FC, the 2021 Goa League winners looking to repeat their unbeaten run from last year.
With AIFF finally announcing the broadcasting of 30 matches of the league on Eurosport and the rest expected to be streamed on AIFF’s Youtube channel, women’s football players, staff and enthusiasts will find a way to make up for the two seasons of club sport in India that has been paused , this time with a longer IWL season.
Today’s matches: PIFA Sports FC vs. Kickstart FC, SSB Women FC vs Hans Women FC, Indian Arrows vs Sirvodem SC
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