Excitement as Ngangom Bala Devi all set to play her first match for Rangers FC at the Scottish Women’s Premier League League (SWPL) on 23 February. In an interview with The Bridge, the 30-year old attacking midfielder from Manipur said that there’ll be pressure on her to perform and she is ready to deliver.
In January this year, Bala scripted history when she signed an 18-month deal with the Scottish side to become the first ever Indian woman footballer to play professionally outside India.
“It is a big move for me and everyone is supporting and watching out for me. So there definitely is the pressure to perform to the expectations. However I will concentrate on my game and give my best, like I always do in all the games I have played till now – so it will not be any different from how I was back at home while playing for India or my club,” Bala told The Bridge.
Her side will play their first match on 23 February against Hearts after their first two matches were postponed due to bad weather.
“The preparations have been really good. For me this is the first time I have go through such intensive pre season training. The first two matches of the SWPL cup got postponed due to weather conditions, so the team is really looking forward to playing this weekend. Hoping that this match is not affected my weather too,” Bala added.
Ahead of her debut, Bala is hopeful that if she can perform as per the expectations, the road will be opened up for more Indian girls in Europe.
“Clubs have definitely started to look at Indian players and are following them. I hope that this opportunity that I got can lead to more such opportunities for the other talented players back home. It is a big step for me and I will try to give my best hoping that it can pave way for more players from our country and the region to play in Europe. The girls from our region need to aspire to play full time in a full time league with training every day,” she added.
With this deal, she has joined the league of stellar performers like Mohammed Salim, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, among others, who have played for European clubs in the past.
Bala who made her India debut in 2005 is also highly impressed with the scene of women’s football in Scotland. She said that the SWPL is gaining popularity and fan base.
“With Rangers FC team becoming fully professional club, one can understand that women’s football is of key importance in Scotland. All the facilities, training for the women’s team is identical to that of the men’s team. A year-round league and multiple playing opportunities ensures that the sport is growing continuously in turn leading to more opportunities for female players. The league has been gaining popularity steadily with a growing fan base,” said Bala.