Mohammed Salim, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu are some stellar names who have played for European clubs in the past. Now, for the first time ever, an Indian woman is set to take to the pitches in Europe by storm, and she is none other than Ngangom Bala Devi.
The 29-year-old Indian national team forward is now set to become the first woman from the country to get a professional contract with a European club, after Rangers Women FC signed her an 18-month deal on Wednesday (January 29, 2019).
“I really cannot describe how I feel right now. Playing in Europe has always been a dream for me, and now it has come true,” a positively glowing Bala said to the-aiff.com.
“We all know about the history, the heritage, and the culture that a club like Rangers carries with its name. I am proud to be associated with a club like that, and it will further motivate me to press forward and improve my game,” she said.
“The rate at which women’s football is moving forward, I hope to see more of these young girls following me to Europe and improving the national team in the future,” she continued.
Bala has been on top form for the past year, earning the top scorer’s award in both the Hero Indian Women’s League 2018-19 and the 25th Senior Women’s National Football Championship, scoring 26 and 21 goals, respectively.
She was given a week-long trial at Rangers Women FC in November last year, after which she came back to join the national team and clinched gold with them at the 2019 South Asian Games, where she also finished as the top scorer — netting six goals in four games.
“Improvement is something that we all need to do at all times, and I am thankful to the AIFF for providing me with the facilities in the National Team, so that I could keep improving my game,” said Bala. “Now, it’s time to use this opportunity to further improve myself, as I begin this new chapter in my life.”
The 29-year-old feels that she was truly made to feel at home in the Scottish capital, where the coaches studied her game and helped her ease into the physical style of football played in the United Kingdom.
“Yes, the style of play is more physical in Scotland, but the coaches really helped me adjust to that during my trial. They gave me some crucial tips on how to tweak my game in order to suit the physical style and we could really see those results on the pitch,” she went on.
“We all have seen European football on television or on Youtube, when we were kids, and have dreamt of ourselves playing under such conditions,” she said. “Now that I have got this opportunity, I want to grab it with both hands and show the country that we can all do well if we work hard and give it our best.”
The year 2020 is already a watershed moment for women’s football in India, with the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup set to be held in the country. With her most recent achievement, Bala Devi hopes to inspire the girls who are set to represent the country.
“Play hard, play for yourself, but most importantly, play for your country…there’s nothing greater than wearing the India jersey,” Bala signed off, issuing a message for the youngsters.