Bala Devi is the role model Indian women footballers needed: Dangmei Grace

With Bala Devi charting out a path for Indian women football players to play in foreign leagues, the young Manipuri hopes to continue her legacy.

By Naveen Peter ·

For Indian football women’s team forward Dangmei Grace, Bala Devi’s move to Europe is the kind of motivation she has been looking for over the past few years. 

Early in January, Bala Devi signed an 18-month deal with Scottish giants Ranger FC that saw her become the first Indian woman football player to pen a professional contract outside the country.

The 2020-21 season has seen the 30-year-old Bala Devi take big strides in her career and become a regular fixture in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. Bala Devi has featured in five of Rangers’ seven games so far and scored her debut goal for the Malky Thomson-coached side earlier this month.

Bala Devi’s move to Scottish League giants Rangers FC has inspired Indian women footballers to think big. Photo: Rangers FC

Having learnt about her senior’s development, Dangmei Grace hopes to follow Bala Devi’s footsteps.

“Every player nurtures a dream to play abroad. Bala-di has been doing a tremendous job and it's an inspiration to the youngsters, not only me,” the 24-year-old Dangmei Grace told AIFF TV. “Bala-di has shown the path that if we work hard, we can reach that level.”

Hailing from Manipur, Dangmei Grace made her international debut in 2013 and since has been an integral part of the Indian women's football team that has caught attention for the good reasons in recent times.

Be it their SAFF Cup triumph or the Olympic qualifiers, the Indian forward has played a key role in helping the team find its mojo. Dangmei believes the positives are largely due to various initiatives undertaken by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to support the women’s game in the country.

“Two years ago, our ranking was 67 and now we have come up to 53 -- that is a significant jump. All the exposure trips and the Indian Women's League have been real contributors to this improvement,” Dangmei explained.

“As players, we have to improve in every department in strength, techniques and we have to keep ourselves physically fit.”

With India hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022, the Manipuri believes that the events will go a long way in taking women’s football to the masses.

“We are hosting two monumental tournaments in 2022. I think these will be an inspiration to the younger generation,” the Indian forward hoped.

“I aspire to play my part in AFC Women's Asian Cup and face the top-ranking teams like Japan, Australia and others. I would be the luckiest person to represent my country at that stage and my family would be prouder than ever.”

Lead image: AIFF Media