New clubs and new goals are at the forefront of the Hero IWL

Hero Indian Women’s League or Hero IWL. The variety of a football competition in India is one of its distinguishing aspects. Teams and team compositions will span the width and length of the country. With numerous states covered to guarantee racial diversity.

This is not only true but also required in the Hero Indian Women’s League. It kicks off on Wednesday and brings together clubs that qualified by winning their respective state competitions. As many as 12 different states will be represented in the 2022-23 edition. And several will be making their debut at this level of competition.

Mumbai Knights FC is one of the debuting clubs, if not states. “When we started the club, we wanted to provide a safe and organised space for girls in Mumbai to come and play during the pandemic,” explains team owner Deepu Biswas. “From there, the idea developed to form a club that would compete in qualifiers, the MFA Premier Division, and so on.”

Biswas asked his men’s club’s (he also owns I-League Division 2 side Ambernath Atlanta United FC) coach Steven Dias to take over the women’s squad. During the epidemic because there were no competitions for men.

Despite his lack of expertise in the women’s game, Dias enthusiastically consented. Under his leadership, the Knights qualified for the Hero IWL, finishing second to reigning champions PIFA. Many people were surprised by the victory, given that the Knights had only been in existence for a year. But for club owner Deepu Biswas, it was everything but. And he began making plans for when the major leagues came calling almost immediately.

Read More :- Bengaluru FC will compete for the Hero Super Cup title against Odisha FC (Hero IWL)

Dias’ commitments, first with the Maharashtra Santosh Trophy team. And later with Ambernath Atlanta’s I-League Division 2 season, meant he wouldn’t be able to lead the Hero IWL. So Biswas went in search of a suitable substitute, and found one in Rutuja Gunwant. Gunwant had previous Hero IWL experience, having played for Sethu FC in the 2017-18 season.

For many, Gunwant’s age and lack of experience would have been a warning signal. But Biswas saw it as an opportunity to build a stronger and more inclusive team. To assure more of the same, the group that has flown to Ahmedabad is primarily made up of Maharashtra players. The ranking is topped by India Internationals Ritu Rani and Karishma Shirvoikar, who are from other countries.

While some debutants have kept their teams nearly exclusively local. Many others have mixed and matched to put together the strongest squad possible. Churchill Brothers FC will represent Goa in the Hero IWL for the first time. While the Churchill squad is reinforced by veteran defender and captain Laura Estibeiro. The team has also been improved by the addition of up to 12 outstation players.

Estibeiro, 43, is the Hero IWL’s oldest player. And if her eye-catching exploits in the 27th Hero Senior Women’s National Football Championships 2022-23 are any indication. She isn’t just there to make up the numbers. Estibeiro led a youthful Goa team to third place in Group C. And while it wasn’t enough to qualify for the Final Rounds, there was plenty of praise to go around. “But that’s now in the past,” she points out. “I’m grateful to have been given a second chance to represent my state in some way, and I hope to make them proud in the league.”

New players in Hero IWL

Many players, young and old, who will play in Ahmedabad will be motivated by a sense of locality and pride in their state. While Estibeiro has blown prevailing conceptions of experience. Age, and longevity out of the water, another lifelong veteran. Albeit one 11 years her junior, is eager to make a similar impact after returning to her hometown club after a lengthy absence.

“When we heard Odisha FC was forming a team, it was obviously a source of great pride for us, and it also rekindled hope for women’s football in the state,” Manisa Panna explains. Panna, an India international, was not on the roster when the club won the state league, but when they came calling in January, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “I did not hesitate at all,” she chuckles.

Panna has already represented her state in the Hero IWL . When she represented Rising Students Club in the first season in 2016-17. It was a spectacular campaign for the Odisha outfit. Who won the league stage before losing in the final against Eastern Sporting.

New Season

The next season, she moved sides and played an important part in Eastern Sporting’s return to the final against Rising Students. She was once again on the losing end when the Manipur team was defeated on penalties. Despite playing for three league-winning clubs, Panna has yet to win the crown, something she intends to rectify this season.

“Having had the experience of playing in this league, of coming close and yet missing out,” she adds, “I believe I have a lot more to offer my team.” “It’s been a long time since a title has come to Odisha, and we have a lot of senior players from Odisha, like Pyari (Xaxa) and Juli (Kishan), who will be eager to make them proud.” “I’m looking forward to the upcoming season.”

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