The 2020-21 edition of the Hero Indian Women's League (IWL) is set to take place in Odisha with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Government of Odisha joining hands and moving forward together to organise another successful edition of the competition.
Since its inception, the Hero IWL has been a vital platform for women footballers across India and even abroad to showcase their talent, with the coming season set to have a significantly higher number of matches as well. Women's football in India has been making rapid strides and with the nation set to host both the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year, the Hero IWL's significance will be all the more important.
Stars from the women's senior national team, all of whom have featured regularly in the previous editions of the Hero IWL, shared their delight over the competition being organised in Odisha, as Indian football continues to lead from the front in resuming sporting action in the country after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bala Devi, who is the first Indian woman footballer to sign a professional contract with a top-division European club, termed the Hero IWL as a 'backbone' for women players.
She wrote on social media, "The #HeroIWL has been a backbone for us, bringing forward so many young, talented players. I'm very happy to see that the AIFF and Odisha Sports are going through such lengths to keep Women's football moving forward together!"
Senior defender Ashalata Devi, who had previously been nominated for the AFC Women's Player of the Year Award, stated that the competition has been 'essential' for women's football.
"Really happy to hear that the #HeroIWL will be taking place this season. It has been essential for Women's Football in recent times. Very thankful to AIFF and Odisha Sports for taking up this massive operational challenge," she mentioned.
Midfielder Sangita Basfore, who led the senior team in their most recent matches last month in Turkey, termed the news of the Hero IWL resuming as 'heartening'.
"Very heartening to hear that the #HeroIWL is back. I hope to see more girls beat the odds & come to the fore this time. Very thankful to Odisha Sports & AIFF for organising such a league while keeping everyone safe from COVID," she stated.
Goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, who was part of the Gokulam Kerala FC side that won the title last year, wrote, "Absolutely thrilled to hear that the #HeroIWL is back, despite the pandemic! We can all look forward to another fantastic league. Kudos to the organisers - AIFF & Odisha Sports for moving the cause of Women's Football Forward Together!"
Winger Dangmei Grace, who is also a former Hero IWL champion, mentioned, "Organising a tournament in a safe manner during a pandemic is difficult. But the fact that the #HeroIWL will be taking place this season is music to our ears. Hats off to Odisha Sports and AIFF for taking the initiative!"