Bala Devi hopes to live up to expectations as Scottish Premier League begins on Sunday
India captain Bala Devi feels the professional training she has received at Rangers FC has made her a better player and she is hopeful of living up to the expectations in the Scottish Women’s Premier League beginning on Sunday.
Bala, who signed a landmark 18-month contract with Rangers in January, said after six weeks of intensive pre-season training, she is raring to go in the league which will be played behind close doors.
Rangers open their campaign at home against Hearts Women on the first day.
“We have had six weeks of training and it is intensive stuff, quite different from what we had in India, obviously much more professional stuff,” she told PTI in an interview from Glasgow.
“I like the training style, our head coach is very clear while giving instructions and I have learnt a lot in these few months here.
“I am fully fit physically and in best frame of mind. So, I am raring to go,” said the 30-year-old forward who is the first Indian to join a top flight club in Europe.
Bala made his India debut in 2005 and since 2010, she has played 58 matches for the country, scoring 52 goals.
The trailblazing Indian said her experience of playing international football for so long has helped her adjust to the condition and playing style in Rangers, which is fast-paced and high tempo.
“It is very intensive while training as well as during actual match. It is fast-paced and always running on and off the ball. So, you have to be extremely fit. I think I have adapted to the system.
“I am not facing any problem. My experience of playing for India for 15 years has helped me doing all these. Things are going on well here for me. And I hope to do my best here so that many talented players in India follow me in the coming years.”
Bala had actually made her debut for Rangers in the SWPL in February, featuring in three matches but the league was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic with records declared null and void.
She is not thinking about that now as she keeps her focus on the job at hand.
“That is something I can’t do anything. I am not concerned about it. My sole focus is on football and how I give my best in the SWPL. All of us in the club are working hard to win the title.
“I want to make India proud, hopefully perform well here to instill confidence to those talented girls back home that they can play outside the country. They should not stop dreaming about playing abroad.”
The Manipuri player from Irengbam, a small village in Bishnupur district, said it is a matter of time before more Indian women start playing abroad.
“There are many talented players in the country and I feel in the next two-three years, they will start coming out of India to play football. That will change the women’s game in the country.”
“We are 55th in the world (in FIFA ranking) and that is not bad. We can improve further in the next few years.”
But for that to happen, Bala said the Indian Women’s League (IWL) must turn professional as soon as possible.
“In the current format, the teams are playing just seven matches. That is not enough. It should be in the pattern of I-League or ISL, longer season and played among more teams.”
She said that the international matches for the national women’s team should also increase to raise the profile of the game in the country.
“We play may be four-five international matches in a year. The number of matches will have to be increased.