East Bengal FC name a 23-member squad for maiden Hero IWL campaign

East Bengal FC have named a 23-member squad for the upcoming edition of the Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL), the top-tier professional football league for women in India. It will be the Red & Gold brigade’s maiden participation in the tournament.

EBFC have gained an entry into the sixteen-team competition by virtue of winning the Calcutta Women’s Football League, also known as the Kanyashree Cup, in January.

Coached by former East Bengal captain and India international Sujata Kar, EBFC Women remained unbeaten in the competition, winning all their matches and scoring a staggering 64 goals, including a record 35-0 win over Behala Aikya Sammilani at the East Bengal Ground. Besides, the Red & Golds also registered cleansheets in seven of the eight matches that they played in the CWFL.

The sixteen Hero IWL teams have been split into two groups. EBFC Women have been placed in Group A along with defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC, Mata Rukmani Devi FC, HOPS FC, Misaka United FC, Kahaani FC, Sports Odisha and Mumbai Knights FC. The ‘Moshal Girls’ will play their tournament opener against Gokulam (April 26, 4.30 PM), followed by fixtures against Kahaani FC (April 29, 4.30 PM), Mata Rukmani Devi FC (May 2, 4.30 PM), Mumbai Knights FC (May 4, 8.30 AM), Misaka United FC (May 6, 8.30 AM), Sports Odisha (May 9, 8.30 AM) and HOPS FC (May 12, 4.30 PM).

All the matches will be held in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad across two stadiums – Shahibaug Police Stadium and Transstadia. The top four teams from each group will qualify for the knockouts (quarter-finals, semi-finals and final), while the top eight teams will earn direct slots in next season’s IWL.

Eleven players (Anita, Mini, Ratna, Sashwati, Trisha, Kabita, Rimpa, Barnali, Sushmita, Mousumi and Sulanjana) have been retained from the Kanyashree Cup-winning squad, while the others have been picked through trials.

Young forward Sulanjana Raul, who is currently with the Indian squad for the upcoming Women’s U-17 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier Round 1, may join the EBFC squad after serving her national duty.

EBFC women’s team head coach Sujata Kar hopes her team will put up a good showing in its maiden IWL campaign. “We have brought in some fresh faces for the tournament. The girls have been training together for the past few weeks. Our first match will be difficult as Gokulam are the defending champions and have some of the best players in the country.

“However, the girls are determined to showcase their talent on the big stage. We are the only team representing Bengal in the competition, so we have a massive responsibility on our shoulders,” Kar told the EBFC Media Team on the sidelines of her team’s final training session in Kolkata. Defender Ratna Halder will captain the side.

Here’s the full squad:

Goalkeepers: Gurubari Mandi, Melody Chanu and Jambalu Tayang

Defenders: Bandana Roy, Devajani Debi, Mini Roy, Anita Oraon, Ratna Halder and Mamata Sing

Midfielders: Sashwati Sarkar, Trisha Mallick, Kabita Saren, Neelu Tirkey, Rimpa Haldar, Naocha Debi, Barnali Karar and Giani Mara

Forwards: Sushmita Bardhan, Tulsi Hembram, Mousumi Murmu, Singo Murmu, Mamata Mahata and Sulanjana Raul (subject to availability).