Bala Devi, they say, can score goals even with her eyes closed. Mention it to her and she blushes. You remind her that in 2014, she scored 29 goals at the national level and 18 goals at the international level, and she blushes again. The recipient of the 2014 AIFF Women’s Player of the Year Award just mentions, “I try to do my best.”
In her first interview after receiving the Award, the 24-year old spoke at length to AIFF Media about her feelings, her idol, football in Manipur, future targets and much more.
What does this mean to you?
Sometimes recognition makes you feel motivated. The moment your hard work gets acknowledged, it motivates you further to do better. I have been playing since the age of eleven and this is most significant Award that I have ever been conferred with. I cannot describe my feelings. I feel over the moon.
Whom do you dedicate this to?
Football is a team game and none of my goals would have come without the guidance of my coaches and the support of my teammates. This Award belongs to them as much it belongs to me. My family has also been a pillar of strength all throughout. I dedicate it all of them.
I also need to thank All India Football Federation for their support in promoting Women’s Football. We are all eagerly waiting for the proposed Women’s League to kick-off.
Take a trip down memory lane of 2014.
2014 was nice to me. I scored 29 goals at the Senior Nationals and then followed it up scoring 16 in the SAFF Women’s Championship and two at the Incheon Asian Games. The SAFF Championship was held in Islamabad and that my goals helped India to retain the Championship satisfied me a lot. It was all achieved in Pakistan – hence, it is a bit more special.
How do you manage to score so many goals? All say that you can score with your eyes closed.
That’s not possible (blushes). I try to position myself perfectly in and around the goal area. As a striker I need to anticipate a lot and I am still a learner. I feel scoring is more of a habit. Scoring goals makes you confident as a player and more as a person.
Manipur has long been the nursery of Indian football. How do you describe that?
It’s not just about football but every sport for that matter. It’s all about the legacy. You look around and you will find icons in every sport. It inspires the kids to take up sports seriously. Unlike many other States, there’s encouragement from the families as they interact with real-life champions day in and out.
Who has been your idol?
It has to be Oinam Bembem Devi. In fact, I feel privileged to be the first Woman footballer to have won this Award after her. Right from the time I first played at the national level in 2002 at the age of 11, I have been seeing her enthusiasm and hunger for the sport. She has been a guiding force in my life. Her work rate is incredible. I have learnt a lot from her. I want to play long like her for the national team.
(Interview & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)