In a groundbreaking move, Ngangom Bala Devi has signed an 18-month deal with Scottish club Rangers Women’s FC on Wednesday, thus becoming the first Indian woman professional footballer. She is also the first Asian international to join Rangers Women. (More Football News)
"Rangers are delighted to announce the signing of India National Team attacker Bala Devi from Manipur Police Sports Club, subject to international clearance. The 29-year-old joins the club on an 18-month-deal after a successful spell on trial at Rangers in November," the club said in a statement.
Rangers Women's FC compete in the Scottish Women's Premier League, the top division of women's football in Scotland. Based in Glasgow, it shares Rangers FC's training facilities besides wearing the legendary club's colours.
Bala was previously with Manipur Police Sports Club. The forward has 52 goals in 58 caps and scored more than 100 domestic goals. She has also served as a national team captain in a distinguished international career, which began when she was called up aged just 15.
For the record, legendary Mohammed Salim was the first player from the Indian sub-continent to play for a European club, another Scottish giant Celtic FC, way back in the 1930s. The winger was best known for his role in the fabled 1930s Mohammedan SC team which claimed five successive Calcutta Football League titles.
Bala has a prolific record at the domestic level with over 100 goals in 120 games. She has been the top scorer in the Indian Women's League for the past two seasons and has also been named as All India Football Federation (AIFF) Women's Player of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2016.
"To play in Europe with one of the world's biggest clubs is something I could never have dreamed of," she said.
"I hope my move to Rangers serves as an example to all the women footballers back home in India who dream of taking up the sport professionally," Bala was quoted as saying by BBC.
Her signing was facilitated by Rangers' partnership with the reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions Bengaluru FC, which was announced last September.
Manager Amy McDonald said the player's arrival is an "exciting signing on so many levels", while Rangers head of academy Craig Mulholland described the move as "a huge step for the women's game".
CEO of Bengaluru FC, Mandar Tamhane, said Bala's signing will motivate other youngsters.
"Rangers itself is a historic club as they have a history of more than 150 years. The partnership with Rangers is on various fronts, it is on the youth level and it is on the first team level and also the women's football," Tamhane said.
"This is a big achievement for Bala herself first and also it will create a pathway for other women footballers to look at this as an opportunity to become professional footballers abroad," he added.