As featured on NewsNow: Football news

The Week in Women's Football: Celebrating Barbra Banda's Orlando arrival; deep analysis on India

This week, we look at the final two Olympic Games Finals qualifiers from Africa, along with the draw for the three groups to be played this summer in France, and talk to one of the heroes—Barbra Banda of Zambia—after she joined the Orlando Pride for her first few days in America.

We also reflect on the worrisome news that the 2024 African Women's Cup of Nations might not take place this year due to international fixture congestion. We also look at the recently completed 2023-24 Indian Women's League season, including the final table, the Golden Boot race and the 18 imports across the seven league teams—with seven coming from Nepal—and how the Indian League and the rapidly improving Nepalese WNT have mutually benefitted, with a Nepalese forward and former IWL player now performing in France's Division I Feminine Arkena.

Nigeria and Zambia qualify for this summer's Olympic Games Finals

Nigeria and Zambia have qualified for the last two spots at this summer's women's football Olympic Games Finals in France. Nigeria played tough defense in a game with few chances for either side in a scoreless second leg draw in Zambia on April 9, after a 1-0 home win in Abeokuta in Southwest Nigeria on April 5, for a 1-0 aggregate victory. Rasheedat Ajibade (24), who has played at Atletico Madrid in Spain since January of 2021 after a season at Alvadsnes in Norway, scored the only goal from the penalty spot late in the first half of the first match. Chinwendu Ihezuo (30) of Pachuca of Mexico, who has also played in China and Kazakhstan as well at home, drew the foul in the penalty box.

American Randy Waldrum is still Nigeria's WNT coach, despite all the turmoil last summer by the federation about his coaching, but by his team making the Round of 16 and losing narrowly to eventual finalists England (4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 tie following 120 minutes), federation officials clammed up (see: The Week in Women's Football: World Cup Groups A & B preview; Calgary Foothills exclusive - Tribal Football). Nigeria's federation reportedly still owes Waldrum about nine months of past salary as well as back pay to some players. Unfortunately, it is very likely that Nigeria's Federation Officials will cause more drama for the team before the games this summer—this is what they do—but Waldrum and his players have done an excellent job of blocking out the noise and performing when it is most needed.

This is Nigeria's first Olympic Games Finals berth in 16 years since the Beijing Games 2008. Waldrum said after the scoreless second leg: "Sixteen years without qualifying is a long time and I am extremely proud of the girls. It is a huge accomplishment for Nigeria and we defended brilliantly. There is work to be done when it comes to our attack, and we will improve before heading to France." The Super Falcons are onto France this summer. For South Africa, who also advanced last summer to the WWC Round of 16, Banyana Banyana defender Lebohang Ramalepe (30), who won the 2023 African Women's Champions League with her current club Mamelodi Sundowns and played a short time in Belarus with Minsk in 2020-21, won her 100th cap in the game.

Zambia reversed a 2-1 first leg defeat at home against Morocco to win 2-0 in Rabat on two goals by Orlando Pride's new signing Barbra Banda (see more below), who in the last Olympics in Japan had six goals in two games (a 10-3 loss to Netherlands followed by a 4-4 shootout against China—as Wang Shuang (29) topped her with four goals and is now with Tottenham Hotspur of the WSL after two seasons with Racing Louisville in the NWSL). Zambia then lost narrowly to Brazil 1-0 to end the group phase. Zambia defeated Morocco 3-2 on aggregate and qualified for their second consecutive Olympics. For the 2020 Games, they defeated favored Cameroon in the last round of qualifying.

With Morocco also making the Round of 16 at last summer's Women's World Cup, this tie was quite the tossup. In the second match, Morocco had more possession in an exciting match. Banda scored in the 38th minute and scored again in second half extra time from a penalty kick. Copper Queens' Bruce Mwape is still the head coach and has survived charges of mistreat of players ahead of last summer's WWC, distracting attention away from a fine Women's World Cup debut tournament in which Zambia finished third behind Japan and Spain but defeated Costa Rica for three points (see: The Week in Women's Football: World Cup Groups review; Benfica enter Gotham partnership; NWSL check - Tribal Football).

In the first leg in Ndola, Zambia, the Atlas Lionesses took a vital 2-1 road win as secured WSL Tottenham Hotspur striker Rosella Ayane (28) scored the winning goal in the 95th minute. Zambia was ruing an early missed penalty by Prisca Chilufya (24) of FC Juarez in Mexico—after playing in Turkey, Kazakhstan and in Zambia—in the 33rd minute, which was saved by Moroccan goalkeeper Khadija Rmichi (34) of AS FAR. Morocco scored through a stunning goal by Zineb Redouani (23) of AS FAR in the 45th minute from 30 yards plus, beating goalkeeper Eunice Sakala (21) of Nkwazi Queens in Zambia. Zambia attacked relentlessly in the second half and broke thorough with a goal by defender Lushomo Mweemba (23) of the Green Buffalos at home in the 80th minute.

Jeremy MCO-32.jpg participated in Barbra Banda's first media session on April 16 after she arrived in the U.S. to start her first NWSL season with Orlando. Barbra Banda said about her arrival in Orlando, where a number of fans greeted her at the airport (see pictures below): "I was so happy and excited. I didn't expect that. It was a very good welcome. I appreciate the fans." About Zambia qualifying for their second consecutive Olympic Games Finals, she said: "Qualifying was not easy. Being here will help me a lot to have a high level performance [this summer]. There are good quality players for me to learn from… [In France] We want to put up a good game and maybe go through to the next round."

Zambia has a difficult group with the U.S., Germany and Australia, but Zambia as a team in recent years has shown that they will attack and score, with Banda crucial to their hopes.

This reporter asked Banda about playing in China [with Shanghai Shengli] and the league there, as well as why she chose the NWSL, and she said: "It [the Chinese Women's Super League] is very good. For four years I learned from the league, the coaching staff and players. I am here for a change and [to] experience a different type of football."

She added that she has known for years that the NWSL was a quite good league and that all the teams were physical, quick, and provided her an opportunity to improve."

Barbra Banda arrived at the Orlando International Airport on April 14, 2024 to be greeted by a crowd of local Zambian community members and Orlando Pride fans, after she landed in Orlando for her first NWSL season, straight from helping her country qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics last week. Photo courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Barbra Banda (24) will be playing with one of the most influential players in the world in Brazil's Marta (38) and it will be interesting to see how they link up. Currently the Pride is undefeated so far this season in the NWSL, with one win and three ties for six points, to sit fifth in the table. After a transition period, Banda could be a key factor for the club to again make the playoffs this year, for only the second time since they joined the league in 2016. Banda said that her concern is for the team to: "win trophies," but added: "I love scoring, getting chances and utilizing them."

She has the potential to win the Golden Boot in the NWSL, if not this year, then during her four year contract.

Banda at the end of her presser thanked the club officials and the fans, and acknowledged the help of her agent who assisted her so much on this journey. That agent is Anton Maksimov, who was the general manager of FC Indiana in the WPSL and W-League years ago, and has been a leading agent for women's football at the LTA Agency in Sofia, Bulgaria. Anton and I have traveled together in the past at Women's World Cups and he has always been a huge supporter of the talent in the women's game in Africa, attending WAFCON tournaments when typically, very few scouted those events and none from Europe or America. All credit to Anton, Barbra, the Orlando Pride and the NWSL for making this transfer happen.

Banda's signing, I believe, will be looked at in ten years' time as revolutionary, and as impactful on the league as veterans Christine Sinclair of Canada, Marta and the league's all-time goal scorer Sam Kerr of Australia, who joined the league as a little known teenager in 2013 and left six years later as a world class striker who was snapped up by Chelsea in the WSL, have been. Banda comes across as polite, well thought-out and engaging, but make no mistake that her signing by the league and Orlando is huge. Banda is that type of talented player who can be transformational for a team and it will be interesting to watch her play this summer for Orlando and Zambia.

Note: The day after talking with Barbra Banda, did a media call with head coach Casey Stoney of the San Diego Wave, who would play Orlando in Banda's first game on April 19. We asked Stoney how she prepares her team for a new player to the league such as Banda and if she would plan that Banda would start or come in as a sub in her first game in the league. Stoney replied: "We will give them [her players] as much information as we can. Is she left footed, right footed, [prefers the] ball at the feet or go behind [breaking in on goal]. She has physical strength and is quick…. The world class players will find a way through [to impact the game]… We are planning for her to start."

She added that Banda's addition was great for the league with another world class talent adding to the depth of the league.


On April 19, Barbra Banda came on for the Orlando Pride in the 61st minute and had three shots (two on goal) in the last half hour of the Pride's 1-0 win over San Diego in front of a crowd of 7,701, which is a good crowd for the traditionally low-drawing club which averaged only 5,504 fans per game last season. U.S. youth international at multiple levels Summer Yates (23), who played at the University of Washington and is in her second season with the club, scored the winning goal in the 26th minute for the Pride, which remained unbeaten in 2024, with two wins and three ties.

For Morocco, which was such a positive story in 2022 and 2023 by making the WAFCON Final at home and drawing increasingly huge crowds as the tournament went on and then their stirring performances in Australia/New Zealand last summer, has taken a detour and questions will and should be asked of Jorge Vilda, dispatched last year as WNT coach of Spain despite the team winning its first Women's World Cup, who was openly disliked by many players with his dictatorial style. In Morocco, he replaced the hugely popular and effective Reynold Pedros in a curious at best and, I think, a bewildering decision. Do they stick with Vilda—particularly if the WAFCON is not held this year (see more below)—of does Vilda jump ship and move to another women's national team job?

Contracts can be broken on both sides. Morocco needs to keep improving in an increasingly competitive African women's national team environment while maintaining their benchmark as the standard for the women's game in the middle east region. This is a crucial tipping point beyond missing a good chance to make their first Olympic Games Final; the Federation needs to carefully map out their goals for the women's sport and if it were my decision, Vilda would not be part of those plans, with his ability to turn the focus on him and create turmoil with his players.

The Olympics Games Final Group Stage is now set with Group A including host France nation, Colombia, Canada and New Zealand. In Group B, the United States will face Zambia, Germany and Australia. For Group C, Spain, Japan, Brazil and Nigeria will face each other. The games will take play from July 25 to August 10 in seven cities and seven venues around the country (see below).

Seven teams return from the 2021 Olympic Women's Soccer Tournament in the USA, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Zambia. All three European teams in this Olympic tournament—France, Spain and Germany—did not compete in Japan. For Spain, the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup champions, will be participating in its first Olympic women's soccer tournament.

2024 Paris Olympics Groups - Women's Soccer

Group A (Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Nice):

A1: France

A2: Colombia

A3: Canada

A4: New Zealand

Group B (Marseille, Nice, Saint-Etienne):


B2: Zambia

B3: Germany

B4: Australia

Group C (Nantes, Bordeaux, Paris):

C1: Spain

C2: Japan

C3: Nigeria

C4: Brazil

Germany is one of three nations to have won a FIFA Women's World Cup and Olympic Gold Medal, along with the U.S. and Norway (not in the Finals in 2024).

Looking at Group B, this will be the first time the USA and Germany have ever met in the group stage of the Olympics. Their only meeting was in Greece in 2004 in the semifinals, with the U.S. winning 2-1 in extra time with a goal from then 19-year-old Heather O'Reilly (39) [who now coaches at the University of North Carolina and came out of retirement to play UEFA WCL with Shelbourne in 2022 and in the W League in 2023 with the North Carolina Courage U-23 side.

Drawn in the same group for the second consecutive Olympics, the USA and Australia played twice in Japan in 2021. After a 0-0 draw in the final group stage match, the USA defeated the Matildas 4-3 with braces from now-retired legends Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe in the Bronze Medal match. The USA and Australia were also drawn into the same group at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, playing to a 1-1 draw. Australia finished fourth at both the Tokyo Olympics and the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. Australia will be without iconic forward Sam Kerr in France after she ruptured her ACL in January 2024 with Chelsea. The USA and Australia were also drawn into the same group at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, playing to a 1-1 draw.

Zambia defeated Germany 3-2 on July 7 last season in Furth, with Barbra Banda scoring two goals and Racheal Kundananji (now with Bay FC in the NWSL) scoring the other goal. Zambia has never played the U.S. or Australia before in the past.

2024 African Women's Cup of Nations is at Risk

The Guardian recently reported that the African Women's Cup of Nations in Morocco may not be held this year, as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) struggles to find a spot in the FIFA international match calendar, which would be a huge blow to the growth of the game if indeed that happens. Morocco staged a wonderful WAFCON in 2022 with tremendous crowds and a competitive and open tournament with five 2023 WWC Finals spots at stake; at the 2023 Finals, three of their five WWC teams (Morocco, South Africa and Nigeria) made the Round of 16 in Australia/New Zealand. This reporter watched most of the games live two summers ago and it was a stirring and important tournament that took the game to new levels in so many ways. CAF again chose to hold the 2024 WAFCON in Morocco, with the 12 finalists determined: defending champions South Africa, Nigeria (the record nine-time winners), Morocco, Zambia, Ghana, Tunisia, Mali, Algeria, Senegal, DR Congo, Botswana and Tanzania. The would be second cancellation of the women's tournament in four years, after it was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID.

A complication is that FIFA recently changed the format of their U-17 men's and women's World Cup Finals, with them being held every year starting in 2025—rather than every other year—with the men's tournament finals expanding from 24 to 48 teams and the women's from 16 to 24. All the events from 2025 through 2029 will be held in Qatar on the men's side and in Morocco for the women. FIFA explained their change in a media release that it was based on: "a focus on leveraging the use of existing footballing infrastructure in the interest of tournament efficiencies and sustainability."

The Guardian interviewed one African football association president of one of the 12 finalists who did not expect the WAFCON to be held this year and that it was going to be a joint decision with the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), who now have to play for a U-17 WWC next year, and CAF: "When the WAFCON has no date in the match calendar, I do not see how a tournament is possible. The international match calendar is planned way in advance. You cannot fix a tournament into the year just like that. Our players feature for clubs across the world. They won't agree to release players for a tournament that has not been planned for. It is unacceptable that CAF did not deal with this issue for nearly two years."

A head coach of one of the qualified teams told the Guardian that they had serious concerns with the future and was hunting for another job with the tournament cancellation looming: "If we don't have a WAFCON to play this year, we may not have any competitive games for up to 12 months. I do not know how, as a coach, I can stay with my present team in such conditions. I don't want to sit on my hands doing nothing. I need to be active."

Meanwhile, CAF said in a statement to the Guardian that it is trying to find a "winnable solution" to the problem. CAF spokesperson Luxolo September explained: "The Women's AFCON was scheduled for June, but we have [the 2024 Paris] Olympics. Secondly, the January 2024 window for women's competitions wasn't possible for CAF for obvious reasons [as the men's regional tournament was held in the Ivory Coast]. CAF is currently engaging all involved stakeholders to find a winnable solution for this."

If Africa's Regional National Team tournament doesn't proceed, this will be a huge setback for the African women's game not just in losing competitive games for the 12 finalist teams, but also a missed opportunity to grow the fan base, and add viewers, sponsors and media attention across the continent and the world. This tournament should be a priority for the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) and CAF, even if it has to be held in a non-FIFA window during major European or North American seasons—the men's finals has done that in the past—and though not optimal, cancelling the tournament sends a message that the women's tournament is not that important—no matter what reasons are given. It will damage the African women's game that has been so vibrant in its growth over the past few years.

2023-24 India Women's League Review

The 2023-24 Indian Women's League's seventh season ran from December 2023 through March of 2024. It was the first season in which the women's league played a traditional home and away format, with 12 matches for each of the seven teams. Previous seasons had involved 16 teams split into two groups and playing only one game against their opponents at a central location—with 12 of the teams being various State Champions along with the top four teams from the previous season. For 2023-24,the top eight teams from the 2022-23 league advanced, but Eastern Sporting Union—based in Imphal in the far east portion of the country and who won the title in the first season of the women's league in 2016-17—failed to let the federation know about their plans so only seven teams participated.

Odisha won the league title for the first time by besting Gokulam Kerala—the three-time reigning champions (since 2019-20—no league was held in 2020-21 due to COVID)—by two points, with a 2-0 win at home in Round 3 on December 20, 2023 over Gokulam before losing the return 2-1 in Round 10 on February 9, 2024. The difference for Gokulam is that they opened the season with a 0-0 home draw to Sethu and then again played a scoreless draw at home to Kickstart in Round 5--—those four lost points cost Gokulam another title, while Odisha's lone tie was against Kickstart (0-0) away in Round 7.

The final 2023-24 Indian Women's League standings were:






















Qualification for the AFC Women's Champions League


Gokulam Kerala








































East Bengal










Sports Odisha









Teams could carry three foreigners but only two could play at one time. Current imported players by country (18) were:

  • Nepal (7)
  • Ghana (3)
  • Bangladesh (2)
  • Kenya (2)
  • England (1)
  • Myanmar (1)
  • Philippines (1)
  • Uganda (1)

The imports per team were:

East Bengal from Kolkata in the Northeast

  • Sanjida Akhter (23) of Bangladesh—the forward has over 25 caps for her national team. She won two league titles at home in five seasons with Bashundhara Kings before joining East Bengal for this past season.

Gokulam Kerala in Kozhikode in the Southeast

  • Beatrice Ntiwaa Nketia (29) of Ghana—the goalkeeper was a U-20 international.
  • Phoeby Okech (29) of Kenya—she is a full international; the midfielder played in 2022-23 with Hakkarigucii Spor in Turkey
  • Fazila Ikwaput (28) of Uganda first became a full international in 2016. The forward led the Indian league in scoring this season. She first played with Gokulam Kerala in 2018, scoring five goals in six games. She then played with BIIK-Kazygurt in Kazakhstan, scoring six goals in five games; she also played at home with Lady Doves in Uganda, scoring 34 goals in 45 games and with Omonia Women FC in Cyprus, scoring 13 goals in 9 matches.

HOPS in New Delhi in the far North-central Region

  • Fredrica Torkudzor (21) of Ghana—the forward played at home in the Ghana Premier League with Northern Ladies FC.
  • Gladys Amfobea (25) of Ghana has a few caps with her international team and joined HOPS after playing at home with the Lady Strikers.

Kickstart Bengaluru in South-Central

  • Sabina Khatun (30) of Bangladesh; the forward has over a half century of caps and has played for clubs at home, in the Maldives and in India.
  • Deepa Shahi (18) of Nepal, who plays in midfield, tried to play for Lords Academy in India in 2023 but could not sign an amateur or professional player as an import as she was not yet 18.
  • Anita K.C. (26) of Nepal, who plays in midfield and is a full international.
  • Pretti Rai (19) of Nepal, who plays in midfield. She was capped at the full national team level as a 16-year-old in 2021 by then national team head coach and technical director Gary Phillips—a native of Australia who has also coached the women's national teams of Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands—and scored in her debut against Bangladesh. Earlier this year, she scored a late winner against Lebanon from a long volley in the West Asia Football Federation tournament (see more below).

Odisha in Bhubaneswar in the Northeast

  • Win Theingi Tun (29) of Myanmar; the international forward with over 70 appearances has played at home, in Thailand and India. She has two league titles in Myanmar, two in India—one with Odisha and one with Gokulam Kerala—and won a Kerala League title in India in 2022-23 with Lords FA, when she led the league with 56 goals and in assists with 31. She scored 11 goals in one match and then 15 in the next match.
  • Shelah Cadag (25) of the Philippines. She won six caps in 2018 and won a league title at home in 2023 with Kaya-Iloilo (their first ever league title) and was the league MVP before helping Odisha to the most recent IWL title. She joined on loan from Kaya-Iloilo in March to finish the season with Odisha.
  • Klesha Rosa Darroux (26) of England; the midfielder joined Odisha after playing in the 2023-24 UEFA Women's Champions League with Okzhetpes of Kazakhstan. She played at Louisiana Tech University in the United States and for lower tier clubs in England.

Sethu in Madurai in the extreme South of India

  • Bertha Adhiamo Omita (28) of Kenya and the national team moved from Vihiga Queens at home. The forward previously played in the country for Gokulum Kerala and won league titles in the Premier League in Kenya and in Tanzania with Simba Queens, as many Kenyan women's players have done recently (see: The Week in Women's Football: Man City mega spending; why everyone heading to Tanzania; UCL draw - Tribal Football). At home she is an English teacher and played with other Kenyan sides: Wadadia, Kisumu All Starlets, and Oserian Ladies. Another Kenya international, Elizabeth Katungwa (24), has previously played with Sethu but is now in Greece with Athlitiki Enosi Larisas (AEL). Katungwa had also played with Kickstart FC in the IWL and in Sweden with third tier side FC Dalhein, helping them into the second division. In Africa, Katungwa played with Kwale Starlets in Kenya and Tiger Queens in Tanzania
  • Anjila Tumbapo Subba (27) of Nepal; the goalkeeper has played at home with the Armed Police Force, then for Masha United in Pakistan before joining Sethu for this season. Subba has over 25 caps for Nepal.
  • Gita Rana (27) of Nepal; the defender was first capped by Nepal in 2016 and scored a crucial tying goal in the championship match of the West Asia Football Federation title game earlier this year against Jordan (see more below).

Sports Odisha in Bhubaneswar in the Northeast

  • Rashmi Kumari Ghising (21) of Nepal is a full international. She scored the winning goal in September of 2022 when Nepal defeated India1-0 for the first time in 12 years of the South Asian Football Federation's Women's Cup (with six editions since 2010). Nepal then lost the Final at home to Bangladesh (3-1).
  • Amrita Jaishi (29) of Nepal.

The seven Nepalese playing in the league have helped the 100th rated national team by FIFA [it's highest ranking ever as of the latest rankings on March 15, 2024] and 19th in Asia, which generally plays other teams in South East Asia. However, in February of 2024, Nepal competed in the West Asia Football Federation tournament in Jeddah, Saudi Araiba, defeating Syria 4-1, Iraq 5-0 and Palestine 4-0 in the group stage, Lebanon 2-1 in the semifinal and then fell to regional power Jordan on penalties 5-3 in the championship final after a 2-2 tie in regulation time, with a goal from each team coming between the 89th and 92nd minute, with Nepal scoring the late equalizer from Gita Rana (27), who played in 2023-24 with Sethu in India.

The leading scorer of the tournament was Sabitra Bhandi (27) of Nepal, who became the first Nepalese player to join a top European women's league with Guingamp of France's top tier league, and was featured recently in the Guardian. She scored her first goal in her fourth game with the French club, scoring in injury-time after coming on in the 86th minute of Guingamp's 2-0 win over Lille away on March 2.

Thus far this season, she has played in seven matches, with the one goal. She previously scored at almost a two goal a game rate while in India with Gokulum Kerala in the Indian Women's League, with whom she had to recover from an ACL injury. She first went to India in 2018-19 with Sethu and is another Nepalese player who has benefited from playing in the IWL. She signed this fall with Israel's Hapoel Ra'anana of the Israeli second tier, but the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas into Israel cut her spell short after scoring five goals in two games. For Nepal she has 53 goals in 46 matches. Guingamp is currently in tenth place in the twelve team Division 1 Feminine with a 4-4-12 (W-D-L record) for 16 points but should be safe from relegation, sitting four points above Lille and nine points above Bordeaux, with two teams relegated every year—we will look more closely at France's 2023-24 league season later this spring.

Sabitra Bhandari in action for Nepal

Sabitra Bhandari in action for Nepal. Photograph courtesy of the Asian Football Federation.

The Guardian talked about: "patriarchal reservations and pressure to do household chores and not buck traditional roles, poor economic conditions, and limited resources" holding back women's football in Nepal. Bhandari started playing with a ball made from old socks in her small village in the hills 60 miles northwest of Kathmandu. She feels that she still has a lot to learn from the technical of play that she has found in France; Bhandari is grateful to her teammates at Guingamp for how she has been made feel welcome. She is annoyed, however, about the state of women's football back in Nepal, the lack of domestic matches and the lack of structure to train the next generation.

The National Women's League came to a halt in the middle of the season in 2022 and is going on two full years without a single domestic football fixture in the country. Most female footballers who started with Bhandari are no longer involved in the game. She said: "I've played for the nation for 10 years. But I cannot be financially comfortable with whatever [whenever] I get back home and the lack of tournaments has limited upcoming talents to their villages and sent many to work abroad….I genuinely think we can win the SAFF [South Asia Football Federation] Championship or even make it to the World Cup with enough exposure, proper training, and investment. I can't be grateful enough for the support that continues to pour in from everywhere and it feels good to be the inspiration of several small girls picking up sport, but it is difficult when there's not a secure pathway—it almost feels like I'm making a false promise to them."

A Women's World Cup Finals may seem like a dream too far for a developing women's football side like Nepal, but the same could have been said about Philippines, Morocco or Haiti just a few years ago and they all played in last summer's WWC Finals, with Morocco advancing to the Round of 16 and Philippines shocking New Zealand 1-0 and ultimately costing the co-hosts a Round of 16 berth. More investment at home, re-launching the local league and more players abroad is a sure system to rapidly improve Nepal's national team's results, and they have their recent impressive tournament results in West Asia as a great platform to build on.

The next step for Nepal is to play teams outside of the AFC, which they never have in 78 games dating back to the 1980's. For India (rated 13th in Asia and 66th overall by FIFA), they need to have a longer national league than only for three months and try to add teams for a 10-12 team league by bringing in teams from the state leagues. More investment, marketing and even television/steaming revenues for the IWL—like we have seen with men's and women's one-day cricket leagues in India and in Saudia Arabia for men's and women's football—will provide higher salaries for local players and attract more young women to the game in a country where there is still family and societal concerns against it, and allow funds to bring in imports from other regions to raise the quality of the league, as the Saudi Arabian league has done over the past few seasons (see: The Week in Women's Football: Exploring the Saudi Premier League ambitions and hearing from Maria Khan - Tribal Football).

IWL Golden Boot Race

Fazila Ikwaput of Uganda was the top scorer in the league with 13 goals. Tied for second were two Indian women's national team players: Karishma Shirvoikar (22) of Kickstart and Pyari Xaxa (26) of Odisha with eight goals. Tied for fourth on seven goals were Fredrica Torkudzor of Ghana and HOPS, Win Theingi Tun of Myanmar and Odisha, and Indian international midfielder Soumya Guguloth (22) of Gokulam Kerala and Kaviya Pakkirisamy (21) of Sethu and from Tamil Nadu of India. Tied for seventh on six goals were Indian international forward Sandhiya Ranganathan (25) of Gokulam (who is nearing 40 national team caps) and Indian youth international forward Lynda Kom (19) of Odisha.

Gokulam Kerala in the AFC Women's Club Championship

Gokulam Kerala, as the reigning league champions for 2022-23, played in the AFC Women's Club Championship in November of 2023 in Chonburi, Thailand. They played in the four team group A, losing 8-0 to Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, tying Hualien of Chinese Taipei (who have won their league at home on five occasions) by a 1-1 score and defeating host nation team Bangkok FC 4-3, with a hat-trick from their former U-20 Ghanian international Veronia Appiah, who finished runner-up to Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa when she played with Hasaacas of Ghana in 2021 (2-0) at the first African Women's Champions League tournament.

Urawa topped the group with 9 points, Gokulam was second on four, ahead of Bangkok (3 points) and Hualien (1 point). A planned final between Urawa Red Diamonds and Group B winners Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels was cancelled by the AFC in late March, as was feared for some time due to logistics issues, working around international windows and just the cost for this far-flung tournament with little fan interest. The largest crowd between the Chonburi, Thailand and Tashkent, Uzbekistan venues was 500 to see Bangkok fall to the Japanese side 6-1 (see: The Week in Women's Football: Examining successful A-League initiatives as crowd records set - Tribal Football).

Video of the day:

Tim Grainey
About the author

Tim Grainey


Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free