Indian football team striker Bala Devi feels the forthcoming Fifa Under-17 World Cup in 2022 will help change the overall mindset about women’s football in India.
The tournament was originally scheduled to be held this year but was first postponed to 2021 and then pushed back by another year to 2022.
“Earlier, we didn’t see many girls play football. Now, the numbers have gone up significantly. In the Fifa U-17 World Cup, more girls from various countries will come to India and our girls will get an opportunity to rub shoulders with the world’s best. That will help change the overall mindset,” the Rangers Women FC forward told AIFF TV.
Bala Devi is the first Indian woman to play professional football in a top-flight European league. She recently scored her first goal for the Rangers FC in the Scottish Women’s Premier League in a 9-0 decimation of Motherwell FC.
She recalled how she was criticised for playing football but her father, who himself was a state-level player, beat the odds to help her realise her dream.
“I used to play with the local boys initially. Many people started talking about my playing and started criticising me. “My father was a footballer and he used to motivate me always. Even today, he is my go-to person for any kind of football query, however silly it may be,” she said.
“He taught me to think about football 24/7 and even sleep with a ball in the bed. Sometimes, I even kicked in the middle of sleep and that’s how the passion grew within me.
“I would request all the parents to encourage and back their children so they can attain their dream,” Bala Devi added.
The All India Football Federation is set to host the second Fifa World Cup in five years, and the 30-year-old striker feels that it will help the country shine on a global stage.
“It will make India shine brighter. All the boys who played in Fifa U-17 World Cup in 2017, are competing in the top tier league now. I believe it will be a great opportunity for our girls to get noticed internationally, let alone in India,” she said.
With PTI Inputs