Football Sports

Bala Devi awarded Indian women’s footballer of the year

Indian women’s national team forward Bala Devi has been named as the AIFF Women’s Footballer of the Year 2020/21, with youngster Manisha Kalyan winning the AIFF Women’s Emerging Footballer of the Year award.

The 31-year-old Bala said after receiving the award that she was thankful to her coaches and family, who had played a key role in her progress as a footballer.

“I’m so happy to have won this award. A big thank you to the AIFF and all the fans for their support. I’d also like to thank my coaches — both at my club in Rangers, and in the national team, and also and all the coaches that I’ve played under in the past. A big thank you also to my family and all my teammates for all the support.

“I arrived in Scotland last year, just before the global lockdown had started, and acclimatising to any new place in such conditions has been extremely difficult. But with their help, I have been able to focus on the things that are most important, and keep myself in top shape, both mentally and physically,” she added.

This marks the third time that Bala has won this award, having previously won it two years in a row in 2014 and 2015. Currently playing for Rangers Women’s FC in Scotland, Bala made her debut for the team in February last year and created history as she scored her first competitive goal for the side in December. She remains the first Indian woman footballer to sign a professional contract in Europe.

Nineteen-year-old Manisha, who is also a forward, was named the Women’s Emerging Footballer of the Year for the first time and expressed her delight at being named for the honour.

“This award motivates me to push further to work harder for my team and achieve our goals,” said Manisha.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff of the national team who taught me and made me capable enough for this award. I would further extend my gratitude to my teammates without whom the award couldn’t have been possible.”

A former India U-17 and U-19 international, Manisha made her senior national team debut against Hong Kong in 2019.

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