The Kerala Blasters have made the decision to temporarily suspend their women’s squad. After being penalised by the AIFF for leaving a game early.
The club just failed in its plea to get the Rs 4 crore fine reduce.
The KBFC women’s squad debuted in the Kerala Women’s League in 2022 and finished third in their first season, missing out on a position in the championship game against Lords FA on goal differential. Everyone appreciated the team’s performance. And they viewed as a potential second powerhouse in Kerala women’s football that would soon establish itself in the Indian Women’s League and pose a threat to the dominance of their bitter rivals Gokulam Kerala FC.
Despite the club being fined, the men’s team that left will, as far as is known, walk away empty-handed, and the coach and players are still on the payroll.
Kerala Blasters announced a “temporary pause” for their women’s squad
On the contrary, the women’s squad is now temporarily shut down in order to manage the financial load of the penalties.
A statement like this is, at best, tone-deaf given the present cultural milieu in India. And the wrestlers’ protest against sexual harassment, which exposed Indian sport’s ingrained disrespect for women.
Gokulam Kerala runs both their men’s and women’s teams equally and is located in the same football-mad state. The women’s squad was in strand in Uzbekistan. And unable to compete in the AFC Women’s Club Championship because of the FIFA ban in India. They actually had to shoulder a significant financial cost themselves. At the end of the day, it’s an issue of prioritisation!
Women’s football also doesn’t seem to be anyone’s top priority. Since the beginning of 2022, India’s women’s football team has experienced:
- An embarrassing elimination from a home AFC Asian Cup due to a Covid bubble breach
- The dismissal of an assistant coach and head of scouting for ‘sexual misconduct’ with an Under-17 team
- Silence and a lack of action against the alleged sexual offender at a home FIFA U-17 World Cup
- Sudeva Delhi, a men’s squad, expressed interest in working with the fired coach because he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. The club ultimately withdrew.
- No opportunity to compete in Asian club tournaments, and no payment.
- There were little playing possibilities since match dates were already planned to conflict.
- The IWL was staged in appalling circumstances although it being the tier 1 league.
Why should the women bear the burden of the issues the men’s team caused?
Despite all the roadmaps and host rights, football was never a fair, much alone equal, playing ground for women in India; the Kerala Blasters are the most recent team to openly admit this.
“That’s how women’s football will develop in India. Horrible!” cynically commented national goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan.
These same supporters had openly supported the squad throughout the entire ordeal and had backed Vukomanovic and the walkout wholeheartedly. Indeed, these supporters have consistently improved Blasters performances with their enthusiasm and participation, making KBFC’s ISL matches some of the finest in the nation and fostering a great deal of goodwill for the club.
The majority of them are currently protesting against the Blasters’ leadership. While supporting the women’s eliminated squad. Given their unwavering backing, the powers that be would not have anticipated this. Given that the appeal failed, they may have even been counting on this backing to make a change.
But come the next season, it’s highly possible that the fabled yellow sea of Blasters supporters will be back, ticket sales will keep coming in, and the men’s squad will have all the resources.
The women’s squad could return sooner or later; teams like East Bengal have historically had an on-and-off relationship with their women’s team. But it’s important to pay attention to this incidents going on in women’s football. While the men’s continue to play, the women shouldn’t be forced to make sacrifices for what the men did.
The unfortunate truth is that this news will be seen as a simple corner conceded when in fact it is a fantastic own goal.
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