Being an Indian football fan has been tough for so many years. India has been slipping in the Fifa rankings, there isn’t a hero that we look up to and all we do is follow a foreign football club and try to enlist our emotions to them. Well, it’s a thing of the past, not just the ranking but Indian footballers and their names are marking their way to glory. This time it’s not Baichung Bhutia or Sunil Chetri, the Indian footballer is Bala Devi.
From Irengbam, a town 22 miles from Imphal, to the Scottish capital Glasgow. The Manipuri striker has made history by becoming the first Indian footballer to secure a professional contract with a foreign club. If this news gulped you into joy and happiness Bala Devi also scored in the 85th minute to open her account at Rangers FC in a 9-0 win over Motherwell in the league.
The Journey of an Indian Footballer
Bala Devi was born and raised in the northeastern province of Manipur where football is popular and played with enthusiasm. The state women’s team has won 20 of the 25 national championships held since 1991. She started playing sports at a young age because it runs in the family. Devi also played tennis and handball.
Ngangom Bala Devi holds the national women’s soccer flag as the highest scorer and former captain of the Indian national team. Bala Devi was 15 when she started playing for India. She was inspired to play football because of her father, who often played as a hobby.
As a teenager, She admired Brazilian stars such as Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Well her current favorites are Midfielder and captain of the American women’s national team, Megan Rapinoe, and among the men, Portugal midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo.
Not far from home, she made an idol in Oinam Bembem Devi, a Manipur female soccer player, known as the “Durga of Indian football” – referring to the fearless Hindu goddess.
In 2002, to the delight of Bala Devi, she had the opportunity to play alongside Bembem Devi in national games. After a series of consistent performances, in 2005, she joined the Indian national under-17 team. Bala was just 15 years old then.
Manipur to Scotland
Her success in Indian football earned her a job with the Manipur police in 2010. She has represented three different clubs in the Indian Women’s League, including two seasons at Manipur Police Sports Club.
However, there was another part of the transfer. Due to the FIFA’s rule of the Indian women’s soccer team outside the rank of 40, she did not automatically meet the eligibility requirements to play in the United Kingdom. Qualification rules state that a player’s country must be ranked in the top 40 and must play 75 percent or more of the national team’s games in the last two years. She did not achieve these goals.
Fortunately, the six-member team of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) granted Bala the UK permit with exceptional freedom after Rangers FC presented its case with members of the Indian football team including AIFF president Praful Patel, coach of the Indian women’s group. Maymol Rocky, Bembem Devi, Bhaichung Bhutia, Renedy Singh, and current Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri who has written letters of recommendation.
After all the paperwork was ready, the transfer was completed on January 29th.
Achievements of Bala Devi
Before she arrived in Scotland, Bala Devi came to prominence in 2019, when she scored 26 goals in seven games for Manipur Police in the Indian Women’s League (IWL). A top player in the Indian women’s national team, she has won three SAFF Championship trophies (2010, 2014, and 2016). She has previously served as captain of the Indian football team.
She also received the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year award in 2014 and 2015.
Bala, 31, suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury while playing with Rangers FC and underwent surgery on September 3. Mad4India wishes her a speedy recovery and all the best on her comeback matches.
She is the best striker player in the country and her stats stand at 52 goals in 58 games between 2010 and 2019 when she last represented the country.
She also scored two goals in India’s 2-0 win over Nepal in the final of the South Asian Games, which was the last time she represented the Bharat army.
To Know more about Bala Devi, follow her on Instagram, Twitter
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