Bihar is not exactly known for its football but Shirsh Bihar United FC and its founder Vishal Anand want to change that perception. Founded in 2017, Shirsh Bihar are all set to make a giant foray in women’s football as they prepare to play the Bihar State Women’s League, starting from March 14. The Indian Women’s League (IWL) qualifiers are going through in various states in the country and Bihar is all set to join the list. Five teams – Shirsh Bihar, Premier Sporting Football Academy, RDPS FC, Rani Laxmibai GFA and Indira Gandhi WFC – will be participating in the league being organised by the Bihar Football Association.
No team from Bihar has played in the IWL in the five editions of the tournament but Anand has the conviction that he can change that. He stated that he is working on making a winning team, which can win the state league and make it to the final rounds of the IWL. Anand said that he knew playing the Rest of India (ROI) qualifiers would have been a difficult ask and hence, he spoke to the Bihar FA about organising a league to ensure a team from the state makes it to the IWL and a pathway could be made for the girls. ROI qualifiers are playing right before the start of the final round of the IWL between the teams, who have not had a state league to compete in but want to play in the IWL.
The Bihar league will be played in a proper league format, where all the five teams play each other in a two-legged match. The league will be organised at Police Line in Muzaffarpur.
Anand feels that having the IWL qualifiers in the state can also “contribute to building a club culture.” He said the girls right now are only associated with school tournaments and there is a severe lack of club culture in the state. “If we go in the IWL, it will be good. I am trying to make a good team for the IWL spending a good amount. But my final motive is development. My aim is that at least five-six girls in the starting XI be local,” he said.
Since the foundation of Shirsh Bihar United FC, the club has the vision of playing the I-League with its men’s team. However, so far they have been able to play the East Champaran Super division district league, where they finished runners-up. From this season onwards, the club is investing into creating a women’s wing and focus on second division with the boys. From next month on, the club is also looking to start a residential academy, where regular training can take place.
With the women’s league and the vision of the IWL, Anand wants the girls of the state to get the opportunity to play on the big stage and have a platform to look at. “I have few players from outside Bihar and the current criteria says 30 per cent players should be local in the squad, in order to facilitate development. We are registering 50-60 girls in the CRS, in order to develop them.”
Anand expressed that it is difficult for him to sign top players from outside the state for the club because there is a lot of apprehension about the state’s football. “There is apprehension in players about joining our team purely because people don’t believe that a team from Bihar can make the IWL. We dream of that, I am trying to put up the best team possible to realise that dream.”
Around June and July, Shirsh Bihar United FC is going to start organising Shirsh Bihar Baby Leagues in all districts of Bihar in categories U-8, U-10 and U-12. In the U-8 category, the club is looking to have both girls and boys play. On top of that, the club is also going to organise the Bihar Soccer League on the lines of the IPL.
“In the playoffs round of the Bihar Soccer League, we will have women’s games ahead of the men’s match, like four teams playing in round-robin format. We are trying to get coverage for the semi-final and final and hope the eyeballs can be directed to the women’s matches as well. We hope that teams in the Bihar Soccer League can have women’s teams as well,” Anand expressed.
Image of Kamala Devi from Shirsh Women’s Cup 2019 (Photo Credit: Special Arrangement)
Shirsh Bihar had organised ‘Shirsh Women’s Cup’ in 2019, where Railways employee and National Championships 2019 runners-up in the top scorer’s list Kamal Devi played for the club. Anand said that they didn’t get much support back then and hopes it can be different from here on.