The 31-year-old currently plays for Rangers FC in Scotland.
In a nation of over a billion people, to be the first Indian woman to sign a professional football contract and score in a European league requires something special. But, Ngangom Bala Devi has plenty of that in her locker.
The 31-year-old striker has settled into life at Scotland, and believes that the hard work that she is putting in as the only Indian in the Scottish Women’s Premier League, will pave the way for others in the future.
“When I arrived, with the lockdown it was quite emotionally difficult, figuring out what to do and how to go about everything was difficult. But slowly I developed a positive mind-set thinking about why I’m here and that I’ve to make India proud,” Bala Devi said. “And I kept thinking that the amount of hard work that I put in will open the path for others to follow. I used to also keep in touch with my family at home a lot so that helped me get through.”
Playing for Rangers Women FC, Bala Devi recently grabbed headlines with a long-range screamer, her second strike for the club, to which her teammates could muster just one reaction – “WOW!”
“The girl who passed to me was very happy that I made it an assist for her.” chuckles Bala, “She had never seen a shot like that go in before so was really happy and came to me just saying, Wow!”
The Indian Women’s Team and Rangers forward highlighted the importance of thinking fast for a striker.
“As a striker it’s extremely important to make a decision in a fraction of a second. As the ball came I thought it would be ahead of me but it was slightly behind. However, I stopped it and in a fraction of a second decided to shoot,” said Bala. “After scoring, I saw a lot of messages on my phone and a lot of positive reactions on the internet so thank you so much.”
The top-scorer for the National Women’s Team and three-time SAFF Championship winner also spoke about the leaps that she has seen the women’s team make in recent years.
“Whatever I’ve learned, what I’ve seen and what I can share from my experience (playing abroad) I will definitely share with the National Team players and support them. But the level of the players who are representing India now has improved a lot. From fitness to confidence I’ve seen a big improvement and I think India will go very ahead.”
Bala Devi also pointed to developments like the forthcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 to be organised in India as signs that Indian Football is definitely moving forward together.
“I’ve been representing India since 2005 and nothing like this (FIFA U-17 WWC 2022) has happened before. But from 2017 to now we’ve taken huge steps forward. The federation is also taking a lot of efforts from U-17 to Seniors to provide exposure. Plus, we’ve got exposure to play in Europe with back-to-back matches in Spain. So we’ve seen our women footballers get better and become more confident, and I would like to thank them for that.”