As a kid, Bala Devi used to play football with boys. She had no other option.
From there to playing for the national team, and now becoming the first woman from the country to sign a contract with a foreign club, her journey has been simply exceptional.
29-year-old Bala has created history by being handed a contract by Scottish giants Rangers FC after successful trials with the club.
Bala Devi is set to become the 1st Indian woman footballer to play in a professional league outside India,for Rangers FC,Scotland— Ajay Kashyap (@AjayKashyap_) January 29, 2020
This is a landmark event in the history of Indian Football,hope this inspires many others to take up Football as a career
India is proud!#baladevi https://t.co/FCg86MBmnD
Speaking to the press after the signing, Bala noted:
“I’m excited to get this 18-month contract and to play in the No. 10 jersey. For the Indian team too I played in the No. 10 jersey. That makes it doubly sweet.
We are extremely proud of Bala Devi as she becomes the first Indian woman to sign a professional football contract anywhere in the world! #meraIndia 🇮🇳 #inquilabeindianfootball pic.twitter.com/uysjpDo3Mq— Blue Pilgrims 🇮🇳 (@BluePilgrims) January 29, 2020
Sensational News!!!— Chelsea India (@ChelseaIndia) January 29, 2020
Rangers Women have signed @IndianFootball striker Bala Devi on a 18 month deal, subjected to international clearance. Keep inspiring Bala Devi 🙌🏻🔥 #IndianFootball
📸 - @RangersWFC pic.twitter.com/FyprdusW77
Bala realises that this is a huge step for women's football in the country and will serve as a motivation for young players to accomplish big things.
Now I want to do well over there and motivate youngsters in our country. I want to tell them that they can also dream big and play for top clubs.
Congratulations Che (sister) Ngangom Bala Devi ✌🏼— Amarjit singh kiyam 8 (@KiyamAmarjit) January 29, 2020
Great opportunity after your years of dedication and hard work to our national team. Super Proud 🙌🏼 #BalaDevi #RangersFC #ASK8 pic.twitter.com/ESMqrQqaWm
'Dream big' has been the theme of her life, you can tell that simply by looking at how far she has come.
Bala comes from Irengbam - a village situated 22 kilometers away from Imphal. She was always passionate about football but the real opportunity came when ICSA - a local club started functioning in her village.
Simply phenomenal. Hope this is beginning of a new era in Indian women football. Many congratulations to Bala Devi 👍 https://t.co/hOJXcEMAXw— Rahul Mehra (@TheRahulMehra) January 29, 2020
This is huge. And I'm so here for it https://t.co/UWblgQVp4O— Rimla Akhtar MBE (@RimlaAkhtar) January 29, 2020
Congratulations to 🇮🇳 women's national team striker Bala Devi, who signed ✍ for @RangersWFC today on an 18-month contract! 🙌👏— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) January 29, 2020
We wish her all the best 💪#IndianFootball ⚽ #ShePower 👧 #BackTheBlue 💙 pic.twitter.com/ouXtcA72fL
From there, she never looked back and went on to play for Manipur and later the national football team. Recipient of 'best player' award multiple times at various stages, Bala later became the captain of the Indian side.
She was a part of the squad for the first women's SAFF Championship in 2010, and scored 8 goals in 5 matches as India defeated Nepal in the final to clinch the trophy.
She followed that up with great performances in coming years, earning the title of AIFF Women's Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015.
The Indian team, with Bala as a part of the squad, has won SAFF Women's Championship 3 times and South Asian Games gold medal twice.