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The Indian women's national team players have lauded the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) approach to "broad-base women's football across the country" as the final round of Indian Women's League is all set to get underway at the Bangalore Football Stadium here from January 24.
"We have played in New Delhi, Shillong, Ludhiana earlier and are now shifting to Bengaluru. This rightly shows the AIFF's urge to broad-base women's football across the country. We thank them for the same and hope to see the Bengaluru crowd coming to the stadium and cheering for their favourite teams from the stands," India striker Bala Devi said.
While the inaugural edition of the tournament kicked off in New Delhi back in the 2016-17 season, the next two editions saw it being hosted in Shillong, Meghalaya and Ludhiana, Punjab. The latest instalment will see the final round of the premier women's league take place in Bengaluru.
"We are all aware of Bengaluru's love for the beautiful game and every football player loves to play amidst huge cheers from the stands. This city has been a witness to some historic footballing moments and now, it's our turn to continue the show," Ashalata Devi, Indian women's team captain said.
Ashalata, who was nominated for the coveted AFC Women's Player of the Year award last year, represented Sethu FC in the last edition of the Hero IWL, where she went on to lead the Tamil Nadu-based club to the title.
"It was an enthralling experience to have won the last edition of the Hero IWL and I can't wait to hit the ground running once again. Along with the National Championships, the Hero IWL is the perfect stage for the budding women footballers to hone their skills and draw the attention of scouts and coaches," the centre-back expressed.
Sethu FC beat Manipur Police in the final of the Hero IWL 2018-19 at the Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana in May last year to lift the trophy.
Bala Devi scored 26 goals in the last edition to win the Top Scorer award and stressed on the Hero IWL's contribution in providing a perfect platform for the youngsters to enter the limelight.
"Having played the premier club competition of the country since its inception, I am happy that we have this tournament and I know how important it is for the current crop of women footballers across the country. The AIFF has done a terrific job and youngsters like Ritu Rani, Anushka Samuel, Karishma Shirvoikar, and many more could come to the fore only because of this tournament. As a senior footballer, I wish the youngsters all the best for utilising this platform to the best of their abilities," she said.
Aditi Chauhan, goalkeeper of the senior national team mentioned the significance of "real game-time to fine-tune" the skills of the players, which eventually helps them grow as footballers.
"It's always motivating and a perfect platform to gauge your own abilities when you are pitted against the country's best. The Hero Indian Women's League does exactly that for the women footballers and everyone wants to grab the opportunity with both hands. As a goalkeeper, I know how significant it is to get real game-time to fine-tune your skills," Aditi stated.
The IWL 2019-20 final round will get underway with KRYHPSA from Manipur facing-off against Kickstart FC from Karnataka, which is scheduled to kick-off on Friday.