FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup can be a gamechanger for India: Bala Devi

Bala Devi, now an international striker, hopes that the authorities build on the momentum that international events provide to an upcoming football nation like India.

By Naveen Peter ·

A trailblazer among women footballers in India, Bala Devi believes that the nation can benefit from hosting high-profile events like the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Scheduled to be held in February 2021, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will be the second big-ticket event in India after the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. 

“With India hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2021, this will be a very good opportunity for our upcoming footballers and for All India Football Federation (AIFF) as well,” Bala Devi told Outlook.

India is also scheduled to host the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and have bid for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup as well.

Bala Devi, the first Indian woman to sign a professional contract with a foreign club, thinks big events are an opportunity to face the best talents in the world. They also provide a platform to prove India’s footballing pedigree. 

“I think if a few youngsters do well in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, they might be called up for the senior team camps as well, so this would be a good transition,” Bala Devi, who plays for Rangers Women’s FC in the Scottish League told PTI.

“These two years will be very exciting for Indian football, but I think the follow-up is even more important. We need to have a good league and a legacy after these two landmark events. 

“Girls need to play full time in schools, colleges, academies and finally in fully professional or semi-professional teams. I am hoping for an Indian Super League-type scenario for women's football in future.”

Indian forward Bala Devi. Photo: Rangers WFC.

Having signed for Rangers in November last year, Bala Devi is waiting to hit the strides with Rangers.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has had its impact on her preparations for the upcoming season, Bala Devi is hoping to stay on track. The new season starts October 18.

“The training has started in full swing taking into account all the necessary precautions. Everything around the world including sports has suffered a setback and it’s no different for football.

"Staying indoors has also given us a chance to rethink our strategies and implement new ideas. We can think of it as a fresh start,” the 30-year-old Indian shared.

Rangers strike deal with Star Sports in India

The Rangers’ matches will be broadcast live in India on the Star Sports network. This will include the exclusive airing of a friendly between Rangers and Bengaluru FC at Ibrox in 2021.

Rangers’ first broadcast game in India will be against Ross County on Sunday, October 4 at 7:30 PM live before a trip to Parkhead to play in the Old Firm derby in mid-October. Alongside the Rangers fixtures, Star Sports will broadcast over 15 other Scottish Premier Football League fixtures.