“I saw the level of teams in Spain and thought I could compete."
Indian footballer Bala Devi has opened up on her life in Scotland during the Coronavirus pandemic.
She made history when she became the first Indian female footballer to sign for Rangers Women. However, her short time in Glasgow is something she did not expect.
Devi signed an 18-month contract in January 2020 and on February 23, she set up the first goal for Megan Bell in a 3-0 win over Hearts.
But that opening game of the planned 2020 Scottish Building Society SWPL1 season was erased from the record books due to the season being declared null and void.
The start of the lockdown left Devi living alone in a Glasgow flat. The four teammates with whom she shares the property returned to their own countries. They have returned since.
She also wanted to return home to India. Devi told The Herald:
“Initially I wanted to go home, but India shut the borders and I didn’t have an option.
“After a couple of weeks, I realised it would be better to stay in Scotland, as India was worse (for Covid-19 cases) than the UK.”
Devi received support from her football club and she was able to speak to her family on the phone.
Women’s and girls’ football manager Amy McDonald said:
“Like everybody else that initial lockdown period was hard for Bala, especially with the uncertainty of it all.
“But she committed to a structure and routine which included yoga – she’s a really grounded person.”
Devi is the first Indian women’s player to sign a professional contract abroad and the 30-year-old remains determined to be a pioneer for female footballers in India.
Her motivation came at an international tournament in Spain. It had been the opportunity for the Indian women’s team to play in Europe for the first time.
Devi said: “I saw the level of teams in Spain and thought I could compete.
“I want to be someone future generations can look up to and realise they don’t have to be confined to playing in India. I’m hoping to set the standard.”
Devi has 52 goals in 58 appearances for her country. However, she made her international debut in 2005 at the age of 15.
The lack of matches has been down to a lack of opportunities.
“India only play about three or four matches a year. There have been 65 since I started, and I’ve only missed seven.”
Even though she has a lot of goals, Bala Devi revealed she is more of an attacking midfielder rather than a striker.
On her favourite position, she said: “No 10. Vision more than goals is my main asset.”
The SWPL season is expected to restart on October 18, 2020, but Devi faces stiff competition for a place in the starting 11.
Devi pointed out: “In Scotland, there is more teamwork, aggression, fighting spirit and faster play.
“Rangers is a fully professional team training five days a week, as opposed to the amateur one I played in back home. I’m pushing myself to be better than I have been for the last 15 years.”