Bala Devi the first Indian woman to sign up for a foreign football club

Will become the first-ever Asian footballer for the Scottish giant

Updated - January 30, 2020 11:16 am IST

Published - January 30, 2020 03:47 am IST - Bengaluru

New deal: Bala Devi proudly displays the No. 10 jersey she will wear.

New deal: Bala Devi proudly displays the No. 10 jersey she will wear.

Indian women’s football star Ngangom Bala Devi has become the first Indian woman to earn a professional football contract abroad after signing for Scottish giant Rangers FC.

The move, facilitated by Bengaluru FC which entered into a two-year collaboration with Rangers last September, was announced at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old from Manipur has put pen to paper on an 18-month deal after a successful trial last November and will don the prestigious No.10 jersey at the Glasgow-based side.

First Asian

She will become Rangers’ first-ever Asian international footballer.

“Bala will be a key player for us,” said Rangers legend Mark Hateley, on the occasion. “She has earned the right. We don’t give that shirt that easily! She impressed us all. Amy McDonald (Women’s and Girls’ Manager) was all praise.

“Gregory [Vignal] (coach) was waxing lyrical about her and he is someone who has played at the highest level with France and Liverpool. He could spot the talent in just 10-15 minutes.”

Bala Devi’s distinguished international career began when she was called up to the senior Indian team aged just 15. She is now the current top-scorer for India, netting 52 times in 58 games, and is also the top international goal scorer in the South Asian region.

She was named the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Women’s Player of the Year twice — in 2015 and 2016 — and has been the top-scorer in the Indian Women’s League for the past two seasons.

“I am very excited with this move,” said the Manipur Police Sports Club footballer. “I just want to work hard and make the country proud. I want to also inspire the next generation of kids.

“From childhood I always believed that I could play abroad. In Scotland [during the trial] I was confident and even scored twice. I have played for India for 14 years and for my state for 17 years. I have also played in Europe on two occasions. I am sure I will do well.”

May be a game-changer

The move, according to Bengaluru FC CEO Mandar Tamhane, could be a game-changer for Indian women’s football ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup which India will host.

“One of our key points of collaboration was to develop women’s football and this is the outcome of that,” he said.

“Getting the work permit is always tough. But Rangers was committed enough to invest in a legal team to complete this.

“We got letters of support from Praful Patel (AIFF President), Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Bembem Devi, Renedy Singh and the Scottish authorities were unanimous in their approval.”

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