Football is among India’s most popular sports and is loved by people nationwide. However, in recent decades its rank of India in the sport could have been better. Besides a few names, such as Sunil Chhetri and BiachungBhutia, most Indians lack awareness of good Indian Football Players. However, there is one Indian Footballer who is changing this narrative and making History in Indian Football.
Bala Devi was born in 1990 in the northeastern province of Manipur. Since childhood, she has been an active sports player, playing various sports such as football, handball, and tennis. She was talented in sports from a young age, and she got to play Indian Football just at the age of fifteen.
Bala Devi initially got interested in football due to her father, who used to play it as a hobby. She grew up watching Brazilian footballers and admiring them, such as Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. Her current favorite footballer is Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal. However, all of these were an inspiration and not her role model.
Her Role Model belonged not far away from her home. Oinam Bembem Devi was a female football player who became the idol of Bala Devi. Like her, she belonged to Manipur and excelled at the sport. She is often known as the ‘Durga of Indian Soccer’ as a reference to the brave, fearless Goddess in Hinduism. Like the Goddess, she is known for her ferocious nature while playing the sport. In 2002, Bala Devi even got a golden chance to play with her at national events.
Playing for the Nation
Bala Devi was playing for India under 17 when she was just 15. Since then, she has played for India in several national and international sports events. The government admiring her accomplishments event offered her a job in Manipur Police. She has played for three different clubs in the Indian Women’s Football League. She even played for two seasons in Manipur Police Sports Club.
Indian footballers often don’t get valued in International Football because of various FIFA rules. One such rule stated that if the rank of the football club of the player is above the rank of 40, the player cannot qualify to play in the United Kingdom. Such harsh rules have ruined the careers of several talented footballers in International Football. Many talented footballers are not eligible to play because their team needs to meet the required ranks. Due to this, the opportunity taken to succeed is taken away from the player without any fault of their own.
The other rule stated that the footballer must play in at least 75 percent of the national team’s sports events, another rule for which Bala Devi couldn’t qualify.
However, history was created when a six-member SFA- Scottish Football Association team granted her a permit to play in the UK, making an exception for the Rangers club. This exception was made after the club appealed to the association and made a case with several members of Indian Football, including the coach of India’s Women Group and AIFF president- Praful Patel. They also showed recommendation letters from talented football players, such as Sunil Chhetri, Bembem Devi, and BaichungBhutia.
History was created, and Bala Devi became the first Indian Football Player to have signed a professional contract with an International Football Club.
Achievements and Recognition
- Captain of India’s Football Team
- AIFF Women’s Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015
- Three trophies in SAFF Championship
- Scored 26 goals in seven games in Indian Women League while representing Manipur Police
- Represented Bharat Army in South Asian Games and won by scoring two goals in the final against Nepal.