With the cancellation of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, the journey of several girls who were selected to don the Indian colour has ended much before it could start. Having worked so hard and for so long, they are now going to miss the mega-event, courtesy the unprecedented Covid crisis.
However, there is a glimmer of hope for the crestfallen teenagers.
The All India Football Federation has drawn up plans to boost their morale if the parent body of Indian football is to be believed. “It is sad but we can do nothing about it,” said Henry Menezes, the deputy chairman of AIFF's technical committee told the Free Press Journal in Mumbai on Thursday, as he shared the brighter prospects that await the girls.
The young players, who would cross the age bar when the Under-17 World Cup is played in 2022, can seek solace because the FIFA Under-19 World Cup will happen that year in India and some of them could find themselves in the national squad.
"This team will be the core team to play in round one of the AFC U-20 Women's Asian Cup qualifiers in March 2021 because of their training and exposure so far," AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told the media.
All these players are part of an overall plan to develop women's football in the country. They will continue to be associated with the national camp, said Das. Many of these U-17 players will make it to the senior national team for the AFC Asian Women's Cup in 2022, India will also host which, he said. AIFF has also assured them they would be considered for selection to the senior team soon.
Talking about the U-17 coach, Das said, “Thomas is the right coach for the U-17 World Cup team. He has now gained experience in India and has an outstanding track record and a very good rapport with the support staff.”
Das said the FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup and the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2022 will give a great fillip to women's football in India and expressed confidence that the events will help in preparing teams for qualification for the Women's Asian Cup 2026 and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2027.