The “Devi” of Indian Football

By Puneet Hooda

From locking horns with boys during childhood to representing 1.2 billion people in Scotland, Bala Devi life has undergone drastic diversification. The 30 years old Manipur born has achieved which no other women footballer has achieved in the country. She becomes the first Indian female player to sign a professional contract with a European club. Initially, she signed an 18 months contract with Rangers WFC and will wear the prestigious number 10 jersey. The move made possible because of the partnership between Bengaluru FC and Rangers FC in November 2019. Rangers WFC plays in the top division of Scottish Women League. She is also the first Asian player to play for Rangers WFC.

Talking about the experience Bala said that the training at Rangers was pretty intense and she was looking to making the most of the “amazing” facilities on offer. “The training sessions are very intense. I can feel myself improving all the time. The level of training and the constant support structure at the club is pushing me to further evaluate myself as a player. This is an opportunity which I have to grab, and make the most of at any cost,” she said.

Born in a sports’ enthusiastic family. Her father is the pillar of her life. In her interviews, she has mentioned the influence of her Father and recounted instances, where he used to take her to play and practice alike. She also remembers other instances like, during childhood, local boys used to fight to take her into their team. She enjoyed sabotaging male vanity while playing nearby her house in the evening. Her unprecedented talent didn’t take much time to attract the limelight, and it all happened in a flash for her.  By the age of 12, she was the member of the Manipur national team which won the championship where she bagged player of the tournament and ascending, by the age of 15, she made her senior national team debut.

Traditionally sports in India, were considered a domain for the men, to add to that Football is a rather aggressive sport, so for women to play football is like sailing against the wind but pioneers like Bala Devi, bring forth hope and present to women a chance to excel in the earlier uncharted territory. In such a patriarchal and male chauvinistic environment a woman from a small village in Manipur coming out and representing her country on European soil is a sight to behold. She has faced a lot of adverseries to reach where she has, because of the condition of women sports in our country, for instance, girls only get one kit in a year. But nothing stopped this young dynamite from the lack of infrastructure facility in Indian women football to lack of proper recognition, despite all the obstacles, Bala Devi has harvested the seed of success in such a rigorous path. Bala’s journey is ambiguous and ardours. There were times when she doubted herself but didn’t surrender.

During her childhood, vicinity people told her parents to restrain her from playing football. That moment she decided she is going to prove everyone wrong and by looking at her today when we can say that people doubts have succumbed to her valour.

The Indian international idealise veteran boxer Marry Kom, another sportswoman who engraved her name in the society with her passion and commitment. She is fond of her ability to juggle between her family and career. However, the interesting fact is she has not married yet. She belongs to a place where child marriage is a common tradition. Marriage is a divine custom in Hindu tradition. Despite that, she has restrained her from any social obligation. Even her parents never tried to convince her for marriage. Devi’s world starts and ends with football only. Although, there are cases where sportswomen get married and continue their social and professional life concurrently. Mirza and Saina Nehwal are the epitomai of it. When asked about the marriage in an interview, Devi response was negative. She said she only wants on focus on football right now.

Bala Devi is an inspiration for women around her and also portrays that dreams are not gender oriented. The Manipuri is the torchbearer of Indian women football and has created a roadmap for the future generation to emulate.

About the Author: The author is a sports enthusiast and has played Football for more than 10 years. Represented the team as a Captain at University level. He believes if all humans developed attributes of sports people, the world will be a beautiful motivated place.

3 Comments

  1. Nicely written.

  2. Neil Saraswat says:

    Bala devi is going to inspire many soon..
    It is really very important to share her journey….i personally love playing football… And watching an indian girl going international in Football..gave me goosebumps..

  3. Nicely written, with a good feminist perspective

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