Bala Devi: The first professional women’s footballer from India

While Indian football is experiencing a steady rise in popularity, women’s football is still in the dark in India. Though there are plenty of reasons as to why the status quo is as it is, we look at a woman who defied all the odds and made it to the bigger leagues. 

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Let’s have a look at Bala Devi, currently playing in the Scottish Premiership. 

Currently donning the number 10 jersey for Rangers’ women’s side, Bala Devi made the switch to Scotland in March of 2020. 

She started playing football with the boys in Manipur, her birthplace. Eventually, she represented Manipur in various Inter-State competitions and managed to secure various honours whilst bagging the honour for best player, also on numerous occasions. 

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Eventually, she found her way to the under-17 and under-19 Indian women’s international teams. After impressing with the younger ranks, Bala Devi was called up for the first team in 2005. Since then, she has made 58 appearances and scored 52. She also managed to win a gold medal for Manipur at the 2015 National Games of India. 

During her 20s, Bala Devi worked as a policewoman for the Manipur Police Department. She took part in the Indian Women’s League which started in 2016-17. She played for the Manipur Police Sports Club in the qualifying round. 

In the 17-18 season, she joined KRYPHSA FC and then rejoined the Manipur Police Sports Club in the following season. 

After scoring 26 goals in 37 appearances for the club, she gained the attention of Rangers. Do note that she was a semi-professional throughout her spell in the Women’s League. 

She signed a professional contract with Rangers in January of 2020 and joined them in March. Speaking to ANI, Bala Devi said,” The level, of course, is much higher than India, and it is a year-long league so its very good to be playing in this environment. The movement off the ball, passing speed and physical play is at a much higher level but I am adjusting,” 

“The girls have been really supportive. Most of them are from other countries so it’s a very welcoming and warm environment”.

She is the first Indian woman to sign a professional contract with a football team. She is also the first Asian woman to play for Rangers. Through her struggle, and her passion to excel at the game, she has become an example for Indian women who want to play the beautiful game. 

Her story is one that inspires and is one that should be spread to all the people looking for a role model. For that is exactly what Bala Devi is to the women of India.

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