Former India women’s international Sujata Kar recently led Emami East Bengal to the Kanyashree Cup (Calcutta Women’s Football League) trophy, defeating Sreebhumi FC in the final. East Bengal qualified for the Indian Women’s League (IWL) for the first time thanks to this victory.
East Bengal’s Kar, the mastermind behind their illustrious campaign, thinks that keeping her players from becoming comfortable was the main factor in their success. She says, without dwelling on the past, “aashol challenge ta ekhoni shuru hobe” (the real challenge begins now).
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Kar considers organising training sessions at a residential camp to be one of her greatest ideas
“Everyone stayed in the same spot. This allowed them to form a camaraderie that extended beyond the football field. Everyone received the same level of discipline. That played a significant role in my team’s victory. Therefore, bit by step, we progressed ahead and are now here,” Kar adds.
Kar travelled to West Bengal’s most isolated areas, including Jhargram, Purulia, and Paschim Midnapur, to find hidden talents who shone brightly for East Bengal in the Kanyashree Cup. While East Bengal has a great tradition in Indian men’s football, their entrance into women’s football has always been inconsistent, with no notable accomplishments.
The head coach claims that in her first meeting with East Bengal executive management, she said unequivocally that she requires time and faith to make things work.
The gradual approach paid off in the long run. Mousumi Murmu, Kabita Saren, Deblina Bhattacharjee, Gita Das, and Sulanjana Raul, who scored the solitary goal in the Kanyashree Cup final and was named ‘Player of the Match’ in the summit duel, were all discovered by Kar.
However, Kar managed to refine the raw skills and harness their enthusiasm into a title-winning campaign, from earning a difficult 3-0 semifinal win over Mohammedan SC to establishing history with a record 35-0 triumph against Behala Aikya Sammilani.
Mousumi Murmu led the Kanyashree Cup scoring with 12 goals
Raul dedicated the cup triumph to Kar and said, “Ma’am [Kar] is always quick to remedy our faults. She and the rest of the support personnel are a huge part of why we’re here today.”
Murmu, from Salboni in the West Midnapur district, became the Kanyashree Cup’s leading scorer with 12 goals. Her performance in the Kanyashree Cup earned her a call-up to the national squad for the AFC U20 Asian Cup qualifiers in Vietnam. However, on Tuesday, March 7, she made her India debut, winning 7-0 against Singapore in the first round of qualifiers.
The victory, however, is only the top of the iceberg. Kar believes it took a long time to gain the trust of parents. Also to persuade them to allow their girls play football.
“There have been situations where I have kept players in my own house since their parents were apprehensive in sending their girls alone, far from home. “I was able to gain their trust over time.” Now, parents are approaching me and asking if I might give their daughter a chance. It’s always good to see that.”
“This Kanyashree Cup success has provided these ladies a platform and focused the attention on women’s football in a favourable way. However, everyone is now curious in what is going on in the status of women’s football. This curiosity was not there before.”
The Future of IWL
The festivities are finished for Kar. Her primary goal now is to help her side flourish in the Indian Women’s League, which begins in April.
“We are already behind schedule, and I have told the club officials that I want to start the training sessions as soon as possible. Another residential camp would have been ideal, but that is now too late.”
Kar believes it will be tough to find talented players from other clubs at this time. She is also allowed to sign two international players. Her major objective, though, is to promote women’s football in West Bengal.
“I’m now training with the Bengal women’s squad. “I’m now training with the Bengal women’s squad. If things go well, I may use this team as the official East Bengal side for the IWL, along with a few additional players from my Kanyashree group.”
“Amader Banglar konai konai talent aching,” he says. Shei meye der khuje dewatai amar lokkho ber kore national platform dewatai amar lokkho. (In every nook of Bengal, there are talented players. However, my major goal is to find them. And also to provide the females with the appropriate platform to thrive on the national scene),” she adds.
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