THE audience at the magnificent Rajarshi Shahu Stadium, a giant cauldron regarded as the nerve-centre of the football-crazy city of Kolhapur is witnessing Himachal Pradesh take on Chandigarh in the Hero Junior Girls' NFC 2019-20.
As the Himachal forward caresses the ball home after some delectable build-up play, the whole arena rises to its feet, and applauds the goal, the list including Alex Ambrose, India’s U-19 Women's Team Head Coach.
With the Indian team set to play in next year's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup the ongoing national championship has been billed as a scouting platform for the mega-event. Ambrose, who is one of the scouts keeping an eye out for India's next big footballing stars, hailed the hosting of the World Cup as a “fantastic moment” for Indian Football.
Talking to www.the-aiff.com in an exclusive chat, he said:
"It's a fantastic moment for Women's Football in India, and the sport as a whole. It's a great opportunity as it will bring awareness among the State Associations, who will be encouraged further to increase their efforts for Women's Football."
A chance to play in the World Cup will have a positive effect on the players well, according to Ambrose, who added: "Playing at a stage such as the U-17 World Cup will give the young girls an opportunity to showcase their talents and a huge motivation to play for. One hopes that they will continue growing from here and will gradually move into the senior team and hope to play in even bigger tournaments."
Despite the Junior Nationals only being a couple of days old, the former India International has been impressed by the qualities displayed by the budding players.
"Of course, they still have a lot to learn but the level of play has been steady, and there is great potential in these girls. They have come from all corners of the country and one can see the burning desire in them to play, improve and become part of a footballing ecosystem," he expressed.
Ambrose also pointed towards the positive attitude displayed by the participants, saying that they are "willing to learn". He stated, "I am delighted to see the attitude of the players. They play with vigour and passion, and such an attitude is everything a coach can ask for. They are willing to learn and can be moulded in the way according to any particular style of play."
Women's football has been on the rise in India in recent times and leading the way has been the Women's Senior National team, who recently won gold at the SAFF Women's Championship in Nepal and came ever so close to making it to the third round of the 2020 Olympic Qualifiers.