Indian women’s football team forward Bala Devi, who is working at her fitness at her home away from home in Glasgow, Scotland, has also taken up her time to support children in need, back in India.
With over 33 million children being affected by child labour, Bala has taken up the cause to raise funds with the help of which, these children will be sent to schools and not work.
“I have experienced how the lack of amenities and access hampers the growth of children and becomes a barrier in them achieving their dreams. It is prevalent all around us and everyone knows it. No child deserves to have to do that,” Bala, the first Indian woman to play professionally in Europe, was quoted as saying by aiff.com.
The mercurial striker from Manipur had signed an 18-month deal with Scotland’s Rangers FC in January this year. Though she could play in a couple of matches for her team, the COVID-19 crisis hampered the session.
“Children have their dreams, be it completing their education, or entering the world of sports. By sending them to work from such an early age, we only hamper that dream. I urge everyone to join in on this effort and help save our kids from child labour,” Bala added.
On India being the hosts for the AFC Asian Cup 2022, she said that it further motivated her to remain at peak fitness as and when she can hit the training ground once again.
“There really isn’t a lot to do as of now, apart from train and keeping yourself at the peak of fitness. I was really excited when I saw India was announced as the hosts. 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,” said Bala.
With the addition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup to the long list of prestigious international tournaments (AFC U-16 Championship 2016, FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2021) that India will be hosting, Bala feels that a lot has indeed mobilised on the football front in the country.
“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. 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,” she added.
Bala is also hopeful that these two tournaments will pump a lot of energy into women’s football.
“The Women’s Asian Cup will be the biggest tournament that we (the Senior Women’s Team) will play at home. I hope that the entire country comes out to support us. All eyes will be on the girls, and we need to give a good account of ourselves,” she reckoned.
The striker is the current top scorer for the Indian national women’s team, netting an impressive 52 times in 58 games, also making her one of the top international goal scorers in the South Asian region. She has also served as her national team captain in a distinguished international career, which began when she was called up just aged 15.