After she scored 16 goals in 5 matches in the SAFF Women’s Championship in Pakistan in 2014 to propel India to the Gold Medal, they said that Bala Devi can score goals with her eyes closed. You mention it to her and the lanky striker laughs it off.
All India Football Federation had lauded the current Indian Captain with the AIFF Women’s Player of the Year Award in 2014, a feat which she “cherishes” so much.
But she has followed it up by winning the 2015 AIFF Woman Footballer of the Year. “Winning the first Award in 2014 was so satisfying. Retaining it was a challenge and more satisfying,” she tells www.the-aiff.com.
“I thank the AIFF for their constant support and help. I revere the Awards lauded to me by the AIFF a lot and these are the things which matter the most to you as a Player,” she adds.
“They are an indication that the hard work you put in throughout the course of the Year was in the right direction. At the same time, they inspire and motivate you a thousand-folds to play your heart out on the pitch.”
“Would this be possible without the help of the Coaches who have trained me and the All India Football Federation which has provided me with a platform to represent the Nation?”
She follows it up with a denial shake of the head.
Born in Manipur, life for Bala Devi has always revolved around a Football. During her initial days, she played with mostly the boys. Thereafter, she went on to represent the State of Manipur in the U-19 Women’s Championship in 2002 in Assam, wherein she won the Best Player of the Tournament Award.
Her acumen had such gravity that even in the next edition of the U-19 Women’s Championship in 2003, Bala once again clinched the Best Player of the Tournament Award stamping her authority as one of the best Players of the North-East region.
“I still remember those days”, says Bala as nostalgia sweeps over her. “It all started with that Tournament (U-19 Women’s Championship 2002), and I have not looked back ever since.”
“The feeling you get when you score your first goal is rivaled by only some emotions and playing with your heart out on the pitch in those days made me the type of Player I am today — courtesy the Coaches and obviously the AIFF,” she quips.
You inquire about the emotions which rival the feeling when you score your first goal and Bala almost instantly mentions: “Representing your Country for the very first time.” Taking a walk down the memory lane, it was in 2005 when Bala Devi first represented the Nation in the U-17 age group.
“I had tears in my eyes on the day the Coach told me that I was in the Starting XI for our match. It was so surreal. I get goose-bumps even now when I reminisce the moment.”
Ever since her first cap for the Country, Bala has taken massive strides in her Football career and now is one of the most influential players in the Indian Women’s Team setup, let alone be the Captain of the Indian Women’s Senior National Team.
“The Player I am today is because of my Coaches and the support I got from the AIFF. The AIFF has been a pillar of strength for me and the AIFF Coaches have helped me evolve into a better Player. The credit goes to them, not me.”
With Women’s Football in India on the rise, and the AIFF conducting the FIFA Live Your Goals Campaign to extend the outreach of Women’s Football in India, Bala Devi is one of the icons that many recognize. Her name is met with cheers and the young populace has already dubbed her as their ‘super-woman’.
“It is heartening to see the efforts AIFF has put in to extend the horizons of Women’s Football in India. To see the young girls come out of their closets and indulge in the sport is one of the most glorious sights. Empowerment lies in living your goals and that is what the AIFF has done.”
Courtesy: AIFF Media