Football is one of the most popular sports in our country where “SPORTS” hold a special place in the hearts of the people. But did you know that the game of football was introduced in India by the Britishers in the mid-nineteenth century. Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikary played crucial role in making it popular among his peers and started plain football as a teenager in the year 1877 for the Hare School, Calcutta. He is popularly as the father of Indian football. Nagendra Prasad also took the first step by founding The Boys’ Club which became first Indian initiative at football organization.
However, there are some Indians who have enjoyed successful spells in European and other overseas football leagues and it was started with one of the greatest names in Indian football, Bhaichung Bhutia when he became one of the first Indians to play abroad when he signed for English club Bury in 1999. He played 37 matches in the five years at the club. He also appeared for Malaysian clubs Perak FA and Selangor MK Land. Over the year we have seen players such as Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Aditi Singh Chauhan gain popularity around Europe, with most of them spending their entire careers in India.
Another Indian football player Bala Devi created history by became the first signing of women’s footballer to join the renowned Scottish club Rangers FC. The 29-year-old will join the club on an 18-month deal post a successful spell on trial at Rangers in November depending on getting international clearance. This will make Bala becomes Rangers’ first Asian international footballer. Bala is integral part of Indian national women’s team and is also top scorer, scored 52 times in 58 games ever since 2010. This also makes her the top international goal scorer in the South Asian region.
“I’m hoping to learn a lot from the players over there (At Rangers FC). This opportunity and exposure will definitely add to my experience and game.” She is also thankful to her mentor Bembem Devi who helped her during this period and said She (Bembem) was my senior when I started playing and she has taught me a lot. It was great to play with her. She has been my teammate as well as a mentor.”
Bala was called up to play for the national team at a young age of 15 and during her international career has also served as a national team captain. On the professional front has appeared in over 100 goals in 120 games at the domestic circuit. She was also the top scorer in the Indian Women’s League for the past two seasons and has also been bestowed as All India Football Federation (AIFF) Women’s Player of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2016.
During interaction with the media, Bala was quoted saying “To play my football in Europe with one of the biggest clubs in the world is something I could never have dreamed of. I hope my move to Rangers serves as an example to all the women footballers back home in India who dream of taking up the sport professionally. I’m looking forward to making the most of the top-class facilities and coaching and I am certain I will benefit immensely from the standard of training and competition.”
She further added, “I’m very grateful to Amy McDonald, the coaching staff and the entire management at Rangers for believing in me. Also, this move wouldn’t have been possible without Bengaluru FC who have been instrumental throughout.”
Football manager at Rangers FC, McDonald opened about working with Bala and said “We are thrilled to welcome Bala to Rangers. She is an exciting signing on so many levels. Bala is a playmaker who likes to play as a number 10 and we believe she will contribute goals and assists to the team. She will provide us with an attacking threat and a versatility that we can utilize to our benefit going into the 2020 season. Bala is already a role model for girls across India and they will now be able to see her travel across the world to become a professional footballer.”
Bala is all set to don the same jersey number at Rangers which she wears for India – No. 10. Bala’s signing with Rangers sets a very positive example for women footballers from India.