Alex Ambrose: Hero U-17 Women's Championship presents a huge opportunity for the girls

The Hero Under-17 Women’s Championship, aimed towards providing a platform for talented young footballers from across the country and help select the India squad for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup being held in India in 2020, got underway at Kalyani, West Bengal, from November 11. The tournament involves four teams, with Alex Ambrose helming the Lionesses - one of the participating teams.

The 37-year-old, who has worked as Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side Mumbai City FC's assistant coach in the past and very recently engineered India’s triumph in the SAFF U-15 Women’s Championship, reckons India hosting next year’s U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a giant leap towards the fulfilment of an age-old aspiration. “It was always a dream to be in the world stage for India. But us hosting such a big world event makes things even more special. It is huge for women’s football,” he said.

He also lauded the idea behind a tournament like the Hero U-17 Women's Championship leading up to the 2020 global showpiece and claimed that it will be paramount in the overall development of the youngsters. “Playing a tournament will definitely be important for a player’s development. It will be great for them to participate in the Hero U-17 Women’s Championship. I hope it will help the girls to adapt to the different conditions that they will play in. It will also give them more exposure as they get to play against more players, so it will be a good experience for them.”

“It’s a huge thing that these girls will get to play in a tournament like this. The pressure will be there because it will be broadcast across the country. They need to know that when they represent the country, the nation will also rally in their support. I am sure that they will look at these kinds of events and look to learn from the experience of playing under pressure. They need to look past the pressure, focus on the game, and try to be as successful as possible,” he added.

The tournament is also set to be a proving ground for potential hopefuls, allowing coaches and selectors to observe a much larger pool of players than normally possible through conventional means. Speaking on the matter, Ambrose stated, “I believe we have a fantastic scouting network, and a tournament like this will certainly give us an opportunity to look at more players. Basically, we are looking at players who have a certain level of quality, have a good understanding of the game, and last but not the least, what we want to see is passion for the game. Of course, we, the coaches, are there to fine-tune the technical aspects of their game, but passion and desire to perform are certainly things that are in-built.”

“I have worked with women’s teams across various age-groups, and I believe that India is a country of fast learners. No footballer is perfect, so everyone can always improve every day, and that will happen over the course of time," he further illustrated speaking about India's potential to grow and make a mark in women's football.

Ambrose was also pleased with the way the women's game has risen to prominence in recent years – an aspect he himself have had a huge role in at the youth levels. “It’s always about taking the next step. Development never stops, and I believe that India hosting the World Cup is a big indicator of how serious this nation is about Women’s football. Everyone has come together to make this a grand success.”

“I’m sure that over time, things will only get better. The Hero IWL has been happening for the last three seasons, and that has contributed a lot to women’s Football. More teams will participate, and that’s the way forward. As the pool of players increases, the national teams also get better,” he added.

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