Bala Devi scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to earn a contract from a foreign club. The footballer from Manipur has gone a long way from playing the sport with boys to leading the country’s national team. While the destination is often known, the path remains clouded. Let us have a look at the journey of Rangers FC’s Ngangom Bala Devi.
Hailing from Irengbam in the north-eastern state of Manipur, Devi had football in her blood, right from the word go due to her father’s influence, who was once a footballer. The district of Bishnupur was no stranger in witnessing girls compete with boys, which was until Devi herself set the trend leading to more girls joining. The numbers finally favoured as the district was finally able to form a women’s team of their own.
The 29-year-old recalls the occasions when the boys used to quarrel to have Devi on their side. Devi got her initial lessons in football from her father with her twin sister being the partner in crime. Despite the non-existential to slow growth of women’s football in the nation, Devi’s career sped rapidly with her talent and training being duly rewarded by a place in the district level competitions by the age of 11 which proceeded to her selection in the Manipur U-19 team in 2001. The tournament proved to be the icing on the cake of her youth career as she went on to win the best player award.
Devi’s first step into the International colours was in the U-17 level which played the Olympic qualifiers in South Korea. She has gone on to reveal that she idolises former Indian captain Tababi Devi and has taken inspiration from her attributes as a powerful striker during the day.
To put it in a nutshell, Bala Devi is a relentless goal-scoring machine with the records speaking for itself. Having a fondness for headers, the player has claimed that she favours the diving headers the most.
The past few years have turned out to be the talking point in the striker’s career with numerous achievements glittering the shelf. Devi moved from height to height having won the AIFF Women’s Player Of The Year twice in a row in 2014 and 2015.
Having initially played for the Manipur Police team at the start of her senior career, she transitioned herself to represent clubs such as Eastern Sporting Union and KRYPSHA before landing on a gold mine with Rangers F.C.
Bala Devi is soon to unfurl a new chapter in her exciting journey and is upbeat about her future having impressed at the trials. While the partnership and the good relationship between Rangers F.C and Bengaluru F.C facilitated and catalysed the move, there is no denying of the hard work and potential of the former Indian skipper.
The player underwent an excruciating week-long trial back in November and was delighted with the results having scored twice in an inter-squad match. Having been deployed as a central attacking midfielder with the No.10 jersey, there was only little that could go wrong.
In her own words, she has admitted that women’s football needs more attention and following in order for its growth. Apart from that, she has stressed on how European footballers are better in regards to physicality and tactics. She aims to use her experience to improve those aspects to heal the cracks laying in the foundation of the Indian women’s football team.
While this may seem like a regular transfer amidst the big names being shuffled, this is much like an extensive goal kick rather than a timid short pass.