India hosting Asian Cup gives us extra motivation: Bala Devi

India has previously hosted the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship and the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup as well.

By Subhayan Dutta

An euphoric Ngangom Bala Devi, Indian women’s football star striker, said India hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 has provided additional motivation for her and the national team.

"I was really excited when I saw India were announced as the hosts,” Bala Devi told the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.

“It really is an honour to host such a prestigious tournament. It means so much for women's football in India – the announcement has given us all that extra motivation," she added

Having hosted the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship and the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, India is fast becoming a destination for big international football events.

And with the 2021 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup now scheduled in India, Bala Devi believes that women’s football in India will aim to make a mark. 

"As a footballer, you really can't ask for much bigger platforms than to play a World Cup and an Asian Cup in your own backyard," Bala Devi said. "The U-17 World Cup is a terrific platform for the young girls, and I hope they come out of it with a lot more experience.

"I am hoping these two tournaments will pump a lot of energy into women's football. All eyes will be on the girls, and we need to give a good account of ourselves," added the forward, who has 58 Indian international caps so far.

Staying fit in isolation

The 30-year-old Manipur striker had signed for Scottish giants Rangers FC in January earlier this year on an 18-month contract. But the COVID-19 outbreak has wrecked her plans and Bala Devi is now waiting for the league to resume.

Currently, in Glasgow, Scotland, Bala Devi’s primary objective has been to keep herself fit through individual training like indoor exercises and light cardio at nearby parks.

"There really isn't a lot to do as of now, apart from train and keep yourself at the peak of fitness," said the first Indian professional woman footballer to play for a European club.

"Due to the current situation, we are all doing our own individual practice and fitness. When the team does report together we will see what the plans are.

“I will train and play for my club Rangers FC once things open up after the lockdown and hope to be at peak fitness," she added.