By Samarjit Yen
The state women football team is undergoing hectic preparation under the watchful eye of Coach, Langam Chaoba for the ensuing 35th National Games in Kerala this month. Imphal Free Press requested Ngangom Bala Devi, the 25-year-old skipper of the team for a brief chat, to which she happily agreed. She recently got the coveted title of `Best Footballer of the Year 2014`™, awarded by the Asia International Football Federation. Born to Ngangom Manihar and Ng (O) Memma Devi of Irengbam Mamang Leikai of Bishnupur District, Bala has three siblings.
It is almost the same story with other women footballers of the state. Bala started playing football among the boys of her locality from an early age. Currently an employee of the Manipur Police Department, amidst her demanding schedule as a sportsperson, she has completed her graduation from Oinam College of Nambol in science stream.
Her first foray into the game at the National level was taking part in the Under-19 Women`™s Championship held in Assam in 2002. There she was declared the best player of the championship. Being a striker of the team, Bala plays swift attacking football. She was awarded with the same title in the following year as well, held in Uttaranchal in 2003.
There has been no looking back for Bala. In 2003, Bala was the best scorer in the U-17 Women National Championship. Her first international play was in Korea republic in AFC`™s U-17 held in 2005. She was declared the `Best Player`™ in the 1st South Asian Football Federation Women`™s Football Championship held in Bangladesh in the year 2010. This was Bala`™s first international title.
She also achieved the `Best Player`™ title in the 15th Senior Women`™s Championship 2007 held in Orissa. Again in the same year, Bala was the `Best Goal Scorer`™ in the 20th Senior Women`™s Championship held in Assam by scoring 29 goals in 7 matches.
IFP: How`™s the preparation going on?
Bala: We are confident of winning the gold medal in the National Games. Though we haven`™t got enough time for coaching and practice, it could have been better the camp is conducted for at least three months. In that way we can be more equip on the tactical part of the game as well the dynamics of the team. But we are ready to give excellent performance.
IFP: We wish you good luck. Tell us; under whose coaching did you started playing in the state and the national level?
Bala: Thank you. Well, I started playing under coaches like Jogeshwor and Shyam for the state level tournaments. For the national level, I played under coach Ekendro. They have been helping me in shaping up my football career.
IFP: And what about family support?
Bala: I should say I have been lucky to a have a family who encourage me so well in taking up sports as a career. On top of that my father was also a footballer. He has been encouraging me to play football since I was young.
IFP: Could you share your view on women football in the state?
Bala: To be frank, the state is now facing shortages of women footballers. I think one of the important reasons is there is less number of football tournaments for women as compared to man. It is true that Manipuri women dominate in Indian football, but on the other hand we need more tournaments to groom the youngsters. To simply put, we need more encouragement in various aspects. Women footballers are not getting enough encouragement as compared with male.
IFP: A few tips to the upcoming women footballers`¦
Bala: Dedication, discipline, and respect for the game. One should always try to learn from the instructors and the seniors, if not it is hard to succeed.