Perhaps Indian women are out to prove again and again that they do not need a special Women’s Day for accounting their achievements. In fact, almost every week, the newspapers have something to report about what our Indian girls and women are achieving at the international platform. The woman cricketer, Harmanpreet Kaur, wrote a new chapter in women’s sports when she was extended a contract to play T20 cricket in Australia. Soon, Smriti Mandhana, another woman cricketer, added another page to the same chapter.
Now, yet another new chapter has been added with a lady footballer who represents India, the Manipur State and the Manipur Police Sports Club has been contracted by a Scottish Club to play for the club. Ngangom Bala Devi is a forward who is now on an 18 month contract with Rangers Football Club to play in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. While age may not be theoretically in favour of Bala Devi, her inspiration is none other than Mary Kom who despite her age and being the mother of three children has added one more world championship crown to her tally of many other honours.
Like many other sportswomen of her generation, Bala Devi started her football career playing with the boys. Born on 2 February 1990 and yet to enter her teens, she represented her State in an Under-19 tournament in 2002 for the first time and was adjudged as the best player of the tournament. To prove her merit beyond doubt, she returned next year as a teenager to earn the distinction once again. In 2014, when Manipur won the Indian Women’s Football Championship after a gap of four years, Bala Devi scored 29 goals in seven matches. In 2015, when Manipur won the gold medal at the National Games, Bala Devi was instrumental in scoring the equalizer which helped her team win the medal after the penalty shoot out.
Ngangom Bala Devi was just 15 years old when she found a place in the Under-17 national team. The same year, she was also selected to play for the national senior team. However, she failed to get a permanent place in the national team and was in and out of it for a few years. In 2014 and once again in 2015, Bala Devi was adjudged as the Women’s Football Player of the Year by the All India Football Federation.
Bala Devi has not only led the Indian Women’s Football team at international meets but has also been the leading scorer with 52 goals in 58 matches during the past nine years. She attributes much of her success to her father who backed her unflinchingly in pursuing her football dream.
Bala Devi is obviously delighted to be the first-ever Asian woman footballer to be signed by Rangers FC and is sure that the improved playing conditions and better coaching facilities will improve her playing skills further. At the same time, the Club is eagerly looking forward to the dashing forward adding an edge to its team’s attack.
While the future only will reveal as to who would be the real gainer, there is little doubt that Bala Devi has opened a new path for Indian women footballers of the future. Her performance to a large extent will determine whether other international football clubs will follow suit in enrolling more Indian footballers in their professional teams.
Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years as a reader and contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and with Forbes & Company Limited, he is now a lawyer in Nainital High Court.