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Bala Devi first Indian woman footballer to bag contract with foreign club | Football News

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From Irengbam, a village 22 km away from Imphal, to Scotland’s capital Glasgow. That is a life’s voyage for Bala Devi, who on Wednesday proudly wore the No. 10 jersey of Scottish giants Rangers FC. The Manipuri striker made history by becoming the first Indian woman footballer to bag a professional contract from a foreign club.

The 29-year-old, a former India captain who earlier played in Maldives for New Radiant sports club, is among a group of 14 new players signed by the Scottish club. “I’m excited to get this 18-month contract and to play in the No. 10 jersey. For the Indian team too I played in the No. 10 jersey. That makes it doubly sweet,” the new face of Indian women’s football told reporters here after the formal announcement jointly made by Rangers FC and Bengaluru FC, who facilitated the trials and also the work permit.

“Now I want to do well over there and motivate youngsters in our country. I want to tell them that they can also dream big and play for top clubs,” the two-time AIFF player of the year said.

Bala Devi will be icing on cake: Club ambassador

As a kid, I used to play with the boys and then in my locality a new club ICSA was started for girls (in Irengbam). I joined the club and slowly climbed my way up to play for the national team,” she said. Devi, who gave the trials in November, said she got a hint from the reaction of the coaches that she will get a chance. “When I was showing my skills, I used to hear positive comments of the coaches. It gave me the confidence to do well,” said Bala, who grew up watching the likes of Bembem Devi.

“In 2002, I was selected to play for Manipur to play in the National Games. So, I got a chance to play with her and she was also my roommate during the tournament in Hyderabad. That stint inspired and motivated me to do well,” she said. The youngest of the twin sisters, Bala, joined Manipur police in 2010. She has been the Indian team’s mainstay for several years, now netting 52 goals in 58 matches.

“It is a milestone event for us, India and Scotland. It’s a massive step forward for us as we have signed 14 new players. Bala will be the icing on the cake of our new signings as she comes with lots of experience,” Rangers club ambassador and former England striker Mark Hateley told mediapersons here.

“She is now the face of Indian football for ladies and for us, she will be a key player in the No. 10 shirt. If she doesn’t play 90 minutes of every game, I’ll be disappointed,” he said. Bengaluru FC CEO Mandar Tamhane said Bala’s entry into Rangers sets an encouraging precedent for women footballers in India. “We are glad that BFC’s partnership with Rangers is creating the right kind of impact,” Tamhane said.

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