Indian women’s football team forward Bala Devi feels that the announcement of India hosting the AFC Asian Cup 2022 has further motivated her to remain at peak fitness as and when she can hit the training ground once again.Also Read - Gurpreet: Men Can Also Take a Leaf Out of Bala Devi's 'Path Breaking' Journey
The mercurial Indian striker is quietly working away at her own fitness at her home away from home in Glasgow, Scotland, where she also awaits the restart of the Scottish Premier League. Also Read - Bala Devi Signs Up With Rangers FC, Becomes First Indian Woman Footballer to Play Professionally in the World
“There really isn’t a lot to do as of now, apart from train and keep yourself at the peak of fitness,” Bala said to www.the-aiff.com. “I was really excited when I saw India were 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.” Also Read - Indian women's football team enters Olympic Qualifiers 2nd round for first time
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,” said Bala. “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.”
“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,” she continued. “I am hoping these two tournaments will pump a lot of energy into women’s football. All eyes will be on the girls, and we need to give a good account of ourselves.”
Bala has been altering her schedule as per the pandemic situation and has kept herself busy working on indoor exercises, yoga, or maybe going in for jogging at nearby parks while maintaining social distancing.
“Due to the current situation we are all doing our own individual practice and fitness,” she informed. “When the team does report together we will see what the plans are. I will train and play for my club Rangers FC once things open up after the lockdown and hope to be at peak fitness.”
Apart from preparing herself for the Scottish Premier League season and upcoming national duties, Bala Devi 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,” said Bala. “It is prevalent all around us and everyone knows it. No child deserves to have to do that,” she said.
“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.”
(With agency inputs)