Bala Devi to decide on Rangers future after end of season

Bala Devi, the first Indian woman footballer to score a goal in a professional European League, talks about her time with the Rangers Women FC, the challenges of lockdown and her future at the club.

Bala Devi joined the Rangers Women FC on an 18-month contract in January 2020.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Bala Devi is back to making headlines. After becoming the first Indian woman footballer to score a goal in a professional European League, Bala’s 30-yard wonder goal last week has garnered global attention.

The 31-year-old struck the stunning long-range goal during Rangers Women FC’s 5-0 win over Spartans FC in the Scottish Premier League last Sunday. “As a striker, it is very important to be able to decide in a fraction of a second. When I got the ball, I decided, at that moment, that I would shoot and I scored the goal. The team-mate who gave the assist was very happy. She perhaps did not expect me to score from so far out,” Bala said in an interaction on Friday.

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Bala’s Rangers currently trails table-topper Glasgow City by four points with four games remaining in the League. The two sides will face off in the final game of the season, a potential title decider.

Bala, who joined Rangers on an 18-month contract in January 2020, is the first Indian woman to sign a professional contract with a European club and is relishing her time in Scotland.

“I have the opportunity here to play as a striker and as a number 10 as well. I see it as an advantage because I can score and pass while playing as a no. 10. The staff feel my passing and vision are good. So, I can play in both roles,” the Manipuri forward said. “We discuss the qualities of each player, and everyone mentioned that I am good in 1v1 positions and that my ball control is good,” she added.

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She admitted that while it was a tad challenging to understand the Scottish accent initially, she has picked it up over time. “It was very hard initially, my English was not as good, and it was difficult when I came here. However, it does not impact our communication on the field as we use cues from each other’s running position and make signs. The ideas are the same but the terms used here are a little different. I have got accustomed to it now. For example, we say “throw in”, but they use the term ‘bounce’,’’ she said.

Bala Devi's stunning long-range goal during Rangers Women FC’s 5-0 win over Spartans FC in the Scottish Premier League has garnered global attention.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

While the lockdowns imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus were a tough phase, she kept reminding herself of how far she has come. “I was emotional during the lockdowns because I was not sure what to do and what not to do when the restrictions were imposed. I kept myself positive and kept reminding myself why I am here and that I need to make the nation proud. I kept telling myself that my family has supported me a lot. We stayed in touch throughout.”

She also took a cue from the localites to ensure she remained fit. “I noticed that the local people here go running a lot and are very fitness oriented. Even rains don’t deter them. I saw that as a source of motivation as I felt if they can remain so focussed, why can't I be the same?”

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Her contract at Rangers is up for renewal soon, but Bala remains unfazed. “I can’t talk much about the future - the League ends on June 6, and I will decide the future course of action after that. We have had no discussions about my contract so far,” she said.

Bala also revealed that Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who coached the Rangers men’s team to the Scottish Premiership title earlier in the month, had attended their training sessions. The Indian striker hopes that her team can emulate its male counterpart and lift the title. “I want to support the team and will do what it needs. If I need to create goals to help the team, then I will focus on that.”

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