Imphal: N Bala Devi considers her father as her source of motivation. “Whatever I’ve become today is all because of him and my family’s unceasing support since the beginning of my career,” said the 29-year-old footballer from Manipur who recently scripted history by becoming the first and lone Indian woman to sign up for a foreign football club — Scottish giant Rangers FC.
Bala Devi hails from Bishnupur’s Irengbam Mamang Leikai and was first introduced to football by her father, Ngangom Manihar Singh, who himself used to play football when she was young.
“There is a small football ground near my house and my dad used to take us there, including my brothers and sister, to play football,” said Bala Devi upon her first visit to her home state Manipur, after signing the contract with Rangers FC, in Imphal on Friday.
“I still play with the neighbouring kids whenever I find time on my visit to home,” the ace footballer told EastMojo in an exclusive interview.
The youngest among four siblings and with a twin sister Nandi Leima, Bala Devi flew in from Bengaluru to Manipur to meet her family, relatives and friends before she leaves for Glasgow in the next few days.
By signing a contract with Rangers FC, the five-time Indian women’s football team captain and two-time All India Football Federation (AIFF) ‘Women’s Player of the Year’ has also become the first Asian footballer to do so.
With her 18-month contract, Bala Devi will get to play two seasons for Glasgow-based Rangers FC.
“I am very excited and happy at this moment. With this achievement, I want to make my country proud and also give a boost to my career,” said Bala Devi.
Since the time she embraced the game, she has climbed up the ladder of success playing in the Indian women’s football team and scoring 52 goals from the 58 matches that she has played since 2010.
Despite having a different body structure and fitness level altogether, Bala Devi is confident about her new journey in Glasgow.
“I have been playing back-to-back for two seasons now and my 14 years of experience playing in the national team will help me in adapting to the new environment. I am confident about performing well there (Rangers FC) as well,” said the footballer, who is also one of the top scorers in the Indian Women’s League in the last two seasons.