Indian women’s soccer players are desperate and uncertain about their future after a FIFA ban stripped them from major international competitions, leaving the best teams in limbo.

The world governing body for sports this week suspended national federations “due to unjustified influence from third parties.” Member associations must be free from legal and political interference.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been plagued with governance issues.

The indefinite ban has had an immediate impact on the Indian football landscape, from the professional to the grassroots, men and women alike.

The Women’s Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off in India on October 11, is currently not going as planned. It was supposed to be the country’s first FIFA tournament since 2017.

The punishment also came at the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan, where Indian league winners Gokulam Kerala FC were chasing their first title.

They only learned about the FIFA suspension when their flight landed in Tashkent and were banned from competing.

“Over the last two months, we have worked very hard and our players have been preparing to win the AFC trophy,” said club captain Asharati Devi, who is also a skipper for the women’s national team. told the news.

“Lifting the title remains a dream of ours,” Debi said, describing the team as “haunted by all of this.”

Gokulam released a statement lamenting the stoppage because it was “not our fault”.

“Our women’s team is a source of pride and a jewel for all of us and these players have proven they are the best in India.”

U17 World Cup team finalist Lavanya Verma pointed the finger at the AIFF.

“The main reason for the ban is due to poor governance, but we innocent players have to suffer,” said the 17-year-old.

“It’s sad to see the players working so hard.

“I still hope that the World Cup will be held in India, but if it doesn’t happen, it will be a big blow for everyone.”

– “I have a lot of work to do” –

Women’s footballers in India have come against meager investment, but their recognition has remained muted in a country better known for its fanatical obsession with cricket.

With the national team ranked 58th in the world rankings for women and 104th for men, Gokulam became the first Indian women’s team to qualify for the AFC club competition last year.

National referee Rachana Kamani said a FIFA suspension would jeopardize the sport’s bright future in the country and make it unattractive for up-and-coming talent.

“The last few years have seen the rise of women’s football, but it can only rise if top-level football is played regularly,” the 23-year-old told AFP.

“The ban could lead to less activity and less willingness to play for women as the game has no future in sight.”

Problems with the AIFF kept former chief Praful Patel in office beyond his term without re-election.

The Supreme Court ruled that his presidency was null and void and appointed administrators to hold new elections to be held on August 28.

The suspension of FIFA remains in place until the AIFF regains full control of its day-to-day operations.

Jamshed Chenoy, who runs Sharpshooters FC in Ahmedabad city, said women’s football in India was already suffering from resource shortages and the ban would increase financial pressure.

“The level of support for the women’s game in terms of sponsorship will take a hit,” he told AFP.

“Today players still suffer from a lack of facilities. Much needs to be done for women’s football.”

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