Indian team player Ngangom Bala Devi was signed by Rangers Women’s FC yesterday, in a historic signing as she became the first Indian Woman to have signed a full professional contract, as well as the first Asian signing by Rangers WFC. She has been signed on for an 18-month contract, which will keep her at the club for two seasons, it was hinted that a longer contract could not be provided because there is likely to be a restructuring during the 2021-22 season of the Women’s Scottish Premier League.
In November 2019, she had attended a week-long trial in Glasgow with the Scottish giants, which it appears went quite well. Mark Hateley, the Rangers Head of Club Ambassadors and Business Development revealed in the press conference, that the Rangers’ coach Gregory Vignal, was very impressed by the striker and she also managed to score goals in the trial games, a sure-shot way of ensuring she got the callback. When quizzed if she will make it to the playing 11, Hateley said that he believes Bala will start as a Number 10 and will be a key player for the Rangers going forward.
The 29-year-old has had quite an impressive career, starting out to play for the national team at a young age of 15, she has managed to grab eyeballs in every tournament she has played in. She has been equally prolific for both the Indian team as well as in the domestic circuit. In the 58 appearances, she has scored 52 goals. In the domestic level playing for various clubs in the Indian Women’s League and the Women’s National Football Championship, she has scored over 100 goals in 120 games. She has been the top goal scorer in the IWL 2017-18 (12 goals) and 18-19 (26 goals) seasons. She currently holds the record for most goals in IWL with 38 goals. Her 26 goals in the 2018-19 season of IWL is a record in itself.
A policewoman by profession, she won the AIFF Women’s player of the Year in 2014 and 2015. In her 14-year long career, she has been an important player for the Blue Tigresses as they won the SAFF Women’s Championship thrice (2010,2014 and 2016) as well as the gold medal winner in the South Asian Games in 2010 and 2016.
On her move to the Rangers, she said, “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 added.
The Rangers manager Amy MacDonald believes Bala Devi can serve as an inspiration to many and was thrilled to welcome her into the fold, “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 utilise to our benefit going into the 2020 season.”
The move it appears was facilitated by Bengaluru FC, making full use of their newly forged partnership with the Scottish giants. They facilitated Bala’s trial at the Rangers first and then once she had them singing her high praises, the subsequent signing. Mandar Tamhane, the club’s CEO, spoke about the challenges in trying to ensure that she got the work permit. As per the rulebook, for footballers to play in the UK, the country should be ranked in the top-40. The Indian women’s team currently ranked at 57, did not fulfil the criteria. It was revealed that a special exception was made in her case, with letters of reference from AIFF as well as some stalwarts of Indian football like Bembem Devi, Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Renedy Singh had to be furnished for her to get the work permit. The international clearance is still due on February 3rd.
The Rangers women’s team is currently in their pre-season, the Scottish Women’s Premier League 1 will begin in February and run for 10 months till November. Last year, the team finished fourth in the standings, behind Glasgow City, Hibernian and Celtic FC Women. The Scottish team has also restructured the Women’s team from last season by signing several new players this year along with several changes to the technical staff.
Interesting times lay ahead as Bala Devi takes the field for the Rangers, not just for herself, but for Women’s football and Indian football in general. The women’s game has finally reared its head, with its best pupil at the helm, and no matter what the future holds for Bala, she will be remembered for taking the first step forward.
Congratulations poured in for her from the entire Indian Football fraternity: