AFC Women’s Club Championship a great opportunity for players, says Gokulam Kerala’s Michel Castanha-Sports News , Firstpost

Gokulam Kerala’s Michel Castanha said AFC Club Championship will help the players gain more experience in playing against top clubs.

Michel Castanha during IWL. Image: AIFF Media

Gokulam Kerala FC have been nominated by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to represent India in the upcoming AFC Women’s Club Championship 2020-21.

The winner of the fifth edition of the Indian Women’s League was expected to participate in the Championship, which will also include league winners from seven other countries. However, due to the postponement of the 2020-21 IWL season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth edition champions Gokulam have been selected as the team from India.

India defender Michel Castanha who captained Gokulam to the IWL title in 2020 is excited at the prospect of participating in a continental tournament. She believes the Championship will help the team improve.

“It’s a proud moment for every woman footballer in India that we go one step ahead to AFC Women’s Club Championship. After IWL, we have seen a lot of difference in women’s football and it has given us a platform of AFC Championship which will bring a vast difference in the upcoming performance of the team,” said Castanha.

“It’s a great opportunity for players to play on such a platform, so AFC Championship will give us good exposure and help us gain more experience in playing against top clubs.”

The lack of competitive football action due to the COVID-19 could work against Gokulam in the competition, but Castanha feels the most important thing at the moment for her team and herself is to gain exposure at the top level, where they will be competing against league winners form other countries.

“No doubt the opponents will be tough. The competition will be tough but we will gain a lot of experience from that exposure. It will show us where we stand and how much we need to improve, and what we lack. It’s a great opportunity for all the Gokulam players. It will be challenging but the experience is very important,” she said.

Castanha also thanked Gokulam for being supportive of women’s football.

“From the beginning, the Gokulam management and president have been very supportive of women’s football. They are like family to me who always encourage me to do well, also for players from Kerala and from other parts of India,” she added.

The AFC Women’s Club Championship 2020-21 is a pilot project. The tournament is envisaged to become the Women’s Champions League in 2023.

It began in 2019 with four teams from Australia, Japan, China and South Korea. It wasn’t held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be back this year with eight teams from Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Iran, Jordan and Uzbekistan.

Gokulam have been grouped with Jordan’s Amman Club, Iran’s Shahrdari Sirjan and Uzbekistan’s FC Bunyodkur in the West Zone group.

Gokulam’s fixtures:

Gokulam Kerala FC vs Amman Club, 7 November
Gokulam Kerala FC vs Shahrdari Sirjan, 9 November
Gokulam Kerala FC vs FC Bunyodkur, 12 November

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