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Indian Women’s Football Team: The Golden Era

The Indian Women’s Football Team was an Asian powerhouse during the 1980s. In this article, Witness the golden era of the Indian Women’s Football Team.

Moinak Banerjee
Last updated: 08.03.2024
The Indian Women’s Football Team were an Asian powerhouse during the 1980s.

Coming into function much later than their male counterparts, the women’s national team brought tremendous achievement within a few years of its formation to make India proud. The team was among the top five in Asia during the mid-1970s to early 1980s which is considered the ‘golden era’ of women’s football in the country. Back then, the Women's Football Federation of India (WFFI) under the Asian Ladies' Football Confederation (ALFC) administered the game although neither was recognised by AFC or FIFA. 

The Indian Women’s Team reached exceptional heights by making it into two finals and one semi-final in their first three Women’s Asian Cup participation, an AFC-recognized tournament.  Additionally, the Blue Tigresses knocked on the doors of the World Cup even but at that time the competition did not fall under the FIFA wing at that time. The glory days of the women's team between 1975 and 1991 will always be remembered and while the side has been unable to replicate those highs again, the legacy of the team remains.

1980 AFC Women’s Asian Cup

Originally scheduled to be hosted in 1979, the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 1980 campaign was of immense success to the Indian Women’s team. The tournament was hosted by India in Kozhikode (then Calicut), Kerala. Making their debut, the Blue Tigresses were split into two sides - India S and India N due to the lack of a team in the competition known as the AFC Women's Championship back then. The India S team consists of legends like Shanti Mallick, Shukla Dutta, Yolanda D'Souza, Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar etc and was the successful unit in all the tournaments in this period. Legendary coach Sushil Bhattacharya managed them in these editions of the Asian Cup. The valiant women's footballers led India to the final of the Asian Cup but failed to get past a strong Republic of China team, losing 2-0. Before that, the Indian team did not lose a single match and conceded just once, scoring seven goals.               

1981 AFC Women’s Asian Cup

India carried the honour in the next edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, hosted in Hong Kong, held the following year. Now as one team, the Blue Tigresses made a fantastic run to the semi-finals without losing or even conceding a goal in the group stages. Shanti Mallick returned as the top-scorer in the tournament scoring six goals with four coming in the 5-0 thrashing of Singapore in the opener. Humbling Philippines 8-0 and then playing a goalless draw against the hosts Hong Kong, India’s sublime run ended in the last four with a narrow 1-0 loss to Thailand. However, the team won hearts again and their performances invited them to the world stage that year.  

1981 Women’s World Cup

Each Indian football fan dreams of the national team playing in the World Cup and while the men’s team were denied the chance to play in the 1950 edition, the women’s team actually participated in one 20 years later although the Women’s World Cup was not recognised by FIFA back then. As a reason, the journey of the Blue Tigresses in the competition rarely comes into the limelight. The top nations took part in the contest namely England, Germany, Netherlands etc and India got the chance to share the pitch with them. The team eventually finished 12th in their debut World Cup which was played in a round-robin format and created more history on the way.          

1983 AFC Women’s Asian Cup

The 1983 Women’s Asian Cup was the last time India earned credible success at the continental level, making another flurry to the final of the competition. With the same star-studded squad, India managed to finish second in the round-robin group stage, qualifying for the showpiece, with four wins and only losing to leaders Thailand. Once again, Shanti Mallick and Shukla Dutta's striking combo brought terror into the opposition's defence with them having a hand in all 11 goals India scored in the tournament. Thailand became their nemesis in the Asian Cup once again as they had to wear the runners-up medal for the second time.

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