The sixth edition of the Hero Indian Women’s League (IWL) will feature 16 clubs from different corners of the country. The tournament has seen the number of participating teams rise from a meagre six to 16 for the 2022-23 season.
Two-time defending champions Gokulam Kerala will be wanting to make it three in a row, while last year’s finalists Sethu will look to go one step further. Will teams like Odisha FC Women, Kickstart, Eastern Sporting Union and Lords FA Kochi will keep the top dogs humble and on their toes?
In this article, we take a brief look at the teams participating in this year’s IWL.
Misaka United FC
Misaka United are based out of Bengaluru, Karnataka. They finished runners-up in the recent edition of the Karnataka Women’s League after finishing first during the league stage, thereby securing their qualification for the 2022-23 IWL season.
Sports Odisha are the official women’s football team of the Government of Odisha. They take part in the Odisha Women’s League, in which they finished runners-up in the 2021-22 edition and third in the league standings for the current season.
Kahaani are based out of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The women’s team of Kahaani Football Academy won the Gujarat State Women’s League title last season for the open-age category, which sealed their qualification for this season’s IWL.
In 2022, the East Bengal women’s football team were re-formed after Emami Group came on board as the new principal investor in the club. In January 2023, the team clinched the 2022-23 Kanyashree Cup—traditionally known as Calcutta Women’s League—to book their berth in this IWL season.
Mata Rukmani FC
Belonging to a small ashram in tribal Chattisgarh, Mata Rukmani are the Chhattisgarh State Women’s League champions. A team made up of just 15- to 20-year-olds, Mata Rukmani registered their first win the IWL last season against Hans FC with a 3-2 victory, winning plaudits from the Indian football community for their fearlessness.
HOPS Football Club
Formerly known as South West Delhi Football Club, HOPS are professional football club run by Dharma Foundation of India. The HOPS women’s football team play in the Delhi Women’s League (DWL).
Founded only a couple of years ago, HOPS finished runners-up to Hans FC during the 2021 DWL season before claiming their first title earlier this year, thereby securing qualification for the 2022-23 IWL season.
Mumbai Knights FC
Mumbai Knights ply their trade in the WIFA Women’s Premier League. Led by former India international Steven Dias, they won the 2022-23 WIFA Women’s Premier League to secure their qualification for the 2022-23 IWL.
Gokulam Kerala FC Women
Gokulam Kerala FC Women are based in Calicut, India. Established in 2018, they won the 2019-20 edition of the IWL and retained the title in the 2020-21 season as well. They also became the first club to represent India in the AFC Women’s Club Championship.
Eastern Sporting Union
Eastern Sporting Union hail from Imphal, Manipur. They are one of the most successful women’s football clubs in India and the winners of the inaugural IWL season. They finished runners-up the following year as well and are five-time Manipur Women’s League champions.
Lords FA Kochi
Lords FA Kochi hail from Ernakulam, Kerala. Plying their trade in the Kerala Women’s League (KWL), they defeated Gokulam Kerala FC Women in the final to win their first KWL title, securing qualification for the 2022-23 IWL in the process.
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) FC
The CRPF women’s football team hail from Jalandhar, Punjab. Participating in the four-team Punjab Women’s League, they are the most successful team in the tournament’s history, having won four out its five editions, including this season.
Churchill Brothers FC Goa
The Churchill Brothers women’s team are based in Margao, Goa. They won the sixth edition of the GFA Vedanta Women’s League last season to secure their qualification for this year’s IWL.
The Bengaluru-based Kickstart FC women’s team have won the Karnataka Women’s League for the fourth consecutive time this season, securing their qualification for the 2022-23 IWL in the process. They finished third behind eventual champions Gokulam Kerala and Sethu in the IWL last season.
Celtic Queens FC
Celtic Queens are based in Pondicherry. Established in 2022, they won the 2022-23 Pondicherry Women’s League to qualify for the 2023 IWL.
On 1 July 2022, Indian Super League side Odisha FC announced the formation of their women’s side, Odisha FC Women.
Odisha FC Women compete in the Odisha Women’s League. The Crispin Chhetri-led side clinched the 2022-23 Odisha Women’s League title by winning all ten league games, thereby qualifying for this year’s IWL.
Sethu FC are based in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Owned by Seeni Mohaideen, they were established in 2016.
Sethu won the IWL in 2018-19, while they finished runners-up last season. They won the 2021-22 edition of the Tamil Nadu Women’s League to qualify for the 2022-23 IWL season.