The NorthEast Young Heroes Awards premiered on Tuesday, December 22.
A total of 150+ nominations came for 10 different fields which include healthcare, administration, tourism, etc. The jury shortlisted 50 of them and the voting lines were open from December 10 to December 18.
In the category of sports, the top spot was clinched by Bala Devi from Manipur. Other nominations in the same category included Sarjubala Devi, Indian boxer, Jonathan Rongsen, cricketer, Jeje Mizo, footballer and Kekhriesilie Rio, equestrian.
Ngangom Bala Devi is an Indian women’s footballer who plays as a forward for Scottish Women’s Premier League club Rangers and India women’s national football team. Born in Manipur, Devi grew up playing the game with mainly boys. She was a part of the Manipur U19 team that took part in the Under-19 Women’s Championship in Assam in 2002.
After the tournament she was declared the best player of the tournament. She was awarded the same title the next year in 2003. She also earned top-scorer awards at the under-17 level for her state. Eventually, Devi went on to represent the Manipur Senior Women’s Football Team in the India women’s football championship.
She was very influential in her state, winning the women’s football championship in 2014, scoring a brace as Manipur defeated Odisha in the final 3–1. This was Manipur’s first championship since 2010 and their 17th overall out of 20. While playing with Manipur, Devi was teammates with India captain and AIFF Women’s Player of Year, Oinam Bembem Devi. She finished the tournament scoring 29 goals in seven matches.
During the 2015 National Games of India, Devi represented her state as they won the gold medal. She scored the equalizer in the final against Odisha to make it 1–1 at the Corporation Stadium. The team went on to win the match 4–2 on penalties. She played inaugural season of Indian Women’s League 2016-17 with Manipur Police Sports Club in qualifying round and in Final Round played with Eastern Sporting Union. In 2017-18 IWL 2nd season she joined KRYPHSA F.C. and in 2018-19 IWL 3rd season she re-joined Manipur Police Sports Club.
In January 2020, Devi signed a professional contract of 18 months with Scottish Women’s Premier League club Rangers, making her one of the few Indian women to become a professional footballer. On 6 December 2020, she became the first Indian woman to score in a professional football league in Europe by netting for the Gers, as they win against Motherwell L.F.C. by 9-0.