Bala Devi's move to Rangers an inspiration for next generation, says Ashalata

Bala Devi became the first woman player from the country to sign a professional contract with a European club, Rangers Women’s FC.

Indian women’s football team skipper Ashalata Devi feels her compatriot Bala Devi (in picture) playing for Rangers will have an immensely positive impact on the next generation.   -  FILE PHOTO/K. MURALI KUMAR

Indian women’s football team skipper Ashalata Devi feels her compatriot Bala Devi playing for Scottish giants Rangers will have an immensely positive impact on the next generation seeking to play abroad.

Earlier this year, forward Bala Devi became the first woman player from the country to sign a professional contract with a European club as she signed for Rangers Women’s FC, who play in the Scottish Women’s Premier League.

In a live chat with AIFF TV, Ashalata said, “Bala di playing for Rangers is a very big opportunity as it shows us the way to play abroad and for the next generation too.

“I hope the young generation gets inspired by her and Aditi (Chauhan), and think that they can also earn opportunities with foreign clubs like her.

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“Everyone has a dream to play for a top club and so, everyone will work hard and give their full dedication to the game. The effect will be huge on the youngsters in the near future,” she added.

The 27-year-old centre-back, who was nominated for the AFC Women’s Player of the Year award in 2019 after a string of excellent performances, spoke about her ambitions to play abroad as well, but stressed that her focus is on the upcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022, with India set to host the event in two years’ time.

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“Every player wants to play for a professional club abroad but as we know, India is hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022 and I want to be focused completely on that for the time being.

“If I get the opportunity to play overseas, then I will surely go and play but my focus is now on the AFC Asian Cup,” a determined Ashalata asserted.

With the women’s national team consisting of a number of young players at its core, Ashalata stated that she wants to pass on all her experience to her juniors and ensure that the adaptation process is seamless.

She said, “My country and the national team is always my first focus. So, I want to share my experiences first with all my juniors and I don’t want to see those who eventually come into the side struggle, since the adaptation process takes time.”

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“Once I think that I have contributed all I can for my country, then I will quit the game.”

Next year, the veteran defender will complete a decade with the senior national team -- having made her debut in 2011. She has been a key figure in the team’s rise in recent years.

When asked about her favourite match with the side, she chose the SAFF Women’s Championship final in 2019 when they defeated hosts Nepal in Biratnagar, in front of a hostile home crowd.

“The SAFF title in Nepal in 2019 has to be the most memorable moment for me.

“We had lost to Nepal at home only some time back and before the final match, everyone got emotional and we promised Maymol ma’am (head coach Maymol Rocky) that we will bring this trophy to you.

“In the semifinals, we faced Bangladesh and all the Nepal fans were supporting Bangladesh, so we also got confused in the situation,” Ashalata added.

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