Hosting 2022 FIFA Women’s U17 World Cup will inspire the next generation of women’s footballers - Bala Devi

The Rangers FC striker also revealed how her father supported her during her developmental period

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

India women’s international Bala Devi feels that India hosting two FIFA events within a span of five years, the Men's and the Women's U17 World Cups in 2017 and 2022 respectively, is a significant moment for football in India. 

The Women's U17 World Cup was set to be held initially in October 2020 before the pandemic forced a postponement to February 2021. However, FIFA was forced to cancel the event but awarded India the hosting rights for the 2022 event. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has already chalked out a detailed plan for the U17 girls so that their progress remains on track. 

Bala Devi feels that hosting this tournament will be revolutionary for the development of women’s football in the country.

The Rangers FC striker opines that the forthcoming Women's World Cup will inspire girls in the country and motivate them to take up the sport professionally. 

"Earlier, we didn’t see many girls play football. Now, the numbers have gone up significantly. In the FIFA U-17 World Cup, more girls from various countries will come to India and our girls will get an opportunity to rub shoulders with the world's best. That will help change the overall mindset," the Rangers Women FC forward explained during an AIFF TV chat.

She went on to credit the AIFF President Praful Patel, who is incidentally a FIFA Council member, for ensuring India has been hosting important tournaments. 

"Patel Sir has always worked hard to elevate Indian football in the continent. Earning the hosting rights of the U-17 World Cup for men and women has put India in an admirable position in the continent nevertheless. His plans for the current U-17 batch underlines the long-term planning of AIFF for women's football and I want to sincerely thank Praful Sir for his constant support to women's football," said Devi. 

Bala Devi training with Rangers Women. Image: AIFF

The AIFF has launched the Indian Arrows women's team and the girls will lock horns against the best in the country in the next edition of India Women's League (IWL). Bala Devi believes this will give them crucial competitive game time and help them bloom.

"It (FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup) will make India shine brighter. All the boys who played in FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, are competing in the top tier league now. I believe it will be a great opportunity for our girls to get noticed internationally, let alone in India," stated Bala.

She recalled memories from her childhood and revealed how her father has been a pillar of support during her blooming days.

"I used to play with the local boys initially. Many people started talking about my playing and started criticising me. My father was a footballer and he used to motivate me always. Even today, he is my go-to person for any kind of football query, however silly it may be.

"He taught me to think about football 24/7 and even sleep with a ball in the bed. Sometimes, I even kicked in the middle of sleep and that's how the passion grew within me. I would request all the parents to encourage and back their children so they can attain their dream," she reminisced.

Earlier in December, Bala Devi became the first female player from the country to score in a European professional football league when she found the net for Rangers against Motherwell in a 9-0 rout.