The India Rush Soccer Club would not have even been competing in the 2018 Indian Women’s League if clubs from the Indian Super League and I-League had not pulled out.
The club based in Mumbai had finished sixth in its group in the qualifiers for the IWL. Only the top team from the two groups were supposed to qualify for the finals, but because of the pull-out of teams from the ISL and I-League, the invitation was extended to four other teams apart from the group winners, Rising Student Club and Eastern Sporting Union.
Out of the four other teams apart from toppers and defending champions Eastern Sporting Union that finished above India Rush in Group B, only the Kangchup Road Young Physical and Sports Association, or Kryphsa, could afford to participate in the IWL.
As a result, India Rush sneaked through the backdoor as they were willing to foot the bill, along with Indira Gandhi Academy and Sethu FC from the other group. India Rush had won the preliminary state-level round of the IWL where they emerged the best team from Maharashtra.
India Rush SC is an international partner of Rush Soccer, which claims to represent over 34,000 youth footballers in the United States. According to its website, India Rush Soccer Club aims to develop players who are capable of reaching the top in India by providing “the necessary infrastructure, professional cultures, and developmental environments that have produced success in Europe and in the US”.
India Rush have employed technical directors with experience working within Rush Soccer, along with professional clubs and academies in Europe and the USA. They have roped in the former technical director of the Guyana football federation, Claude Bolton, as the head coach for the women’s team.
India Rush has also brought in Aditi Chauhan, Dalima Chibber, Jyoti Burrett and two other players who have played for the national team. The team has a young squad, with most players in their early twenties. The players come from six Indian states: Haryana, Goa, Telangana, Mizoram, Delhi and Maharashtra.
Armed with the experience of players such as goalkeeper Chauhan, who played two seasons with the West Ham United Ladies football club in the UK, India Rush hope to make the most of the opportunity given to them by the absent ISL and I-League clubs.
India Rush CEO Dennis Fernandes said that the club has spent more than Rs 25 lakh for its players to participate in the IWL. “I’m not even talking about the costs for my coaching staff, renting grounds and those things. If I include that it will go beyond Rs 35 lakh,” Fernandes said.
“We have to insure all the players. We have to take care of food, stay, travel, hire physiotherapists. The tournament has matches every alternate day. If they keep it on weekends, the cost increases. But then that also causes injuries. Playing at that level every alternate day. You need to have a good medical system to back them up,” he added.
Playing for a cause
Fernandes did not agree with the reasons given by the ISL and I-League clubs for pulling out of the IWL. “They are saying that this tournament is not being organised well, but to be very frank how good is the I-League?” he said. “And how good is the ISL compared with international leagues?
“What if 10 years ago people had said we don’t want to play in the I-League because there is no money in it? Do you think there would have been any football in India? It’s not always about monetary benefits. ISL clubs are also not making profits in the first few years, so the same kind of investment is required even for girls. Why does everyone talk about Return of Investment only when it comes to girls?” he added.
For India Rush, it’s not just about the football but also about women’s empowerment, said Fernandes. “The point isn’t about how good or badly organised the league is. It’s about the cause you want to support. We want to see sport as a career choice not just for boys but also for girls,” he added.
India Rush have a dedicated Under-14, Under-16 and senior women’s football training programme. The club also has teams playing in Under-18, Under-15 and Under-13 tournaments organised by the AIFF.
The India Rush women’s team’s assistant coach, Kimberly Miranda, a former footballer herself, said that she was pleased with the way the squad was shaping up. “We’ve got a good mix of players and the training has been good so far,” she said. “We aren’t thinking too far ahead – just want to make it to the knockout round right now.”
Aditi Chauhan, Banita Ray, Ravina Yadav, Michel Castanha, Sharda Jakhar, Tanuja Jakhar, Samiksha, Dalima Chhibber, Ritu Bagira, Smriti Girish, Margaret Devi Kshetrimayum, Naobi Chanu Laishram, Grace Lalrampari Hauhnar, Nisha Bagira, Deepika Samota, Jyoti Burrett, Bawihtlung Vanlalhriattiri, Soumya Guguloth.
Head Coach: Claude Bolton
Assistant Coach: Kimberly Miranda
Team Manager: Prajakta Tambadkar
Physio: Chinmayee Bedekar