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Bala Devi: Rangers and India forward hopes club can challenge for title

Record-breaking India forward Bala Devi opens up exclusively to Sky Sports News on life in Scotland, Rangers Women's title chances and her dream for Indian players; Devi is the first India international to sign a pro deal overseas and scored her first Rangers goal in win over Motherwell

Bala Devi in action against Hibs
Image: Bala Devi says she has become a better player since joining Rangers

Trailblazing India and Rangers Women's forward Bala Devi is convinced her club can mount a title challenge this season.

Rangers travel to the Broadwood Stadium to take on all-conquering Glasgow City on Sunday, knowing victory will take them level on points with the champions at the top of Scottish Women's Premier League 1.

Devi made personal history when she rounded off the scoring in Rangers' 9-0 hammering of Motherwell last weekend, five minutes from time, becoming the first female professional footballer from India to score a goal in a foreign league.

"We are definitely challenging now, even in training the players are putting in 100 per cent effort," Devi told Sky Sports News.

Bala Devi in training
Image: Devi opened her Rangers goalscoring account in the 9-0 drubbing of Motherwell

"We've also brought in new players [in the close season] and Rangers are now attracting international-level players.

"We are focused on performing well this season and all the players and coaches are really pushing each other."

Devi - a natural number 10 - netted 26 times for Manipur Police in last year's Indian Women's League, and has scored more than 50 goals in an international career with India, spanning over a decade.

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Though the forward comes from the cooler climes of India's north east, life in Scotland's top division, and in particular the intensity of training at Rangers, has taken some getting used to.

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Speaking in Hindi, India international forward Bala Devi explains what she hopes her spell at Rangers can do for players in her homeland

"The weather and the food is of course different [to what she is accustomed to] but I am used to it now, there are no problems," Devi said.

"They play a full season over a long period of time here in Scotland and the training is five days full-time at the club. I have never trained the way I have here in Scotland, I'm training a lot, every day.

"I'm learning about the right things to do on and off the field, physically and mentally, and eating the right things. And all the coaches maintain and look after, and help monitor that. It's made me better."

'The Indian girls can play anywhere'

Former India captain Devi hopes her opportunity at Rangers can inspire players in her homeland to also test themselves by seeking out opportunities to play abroad.

India international Bala Devi signs for Rangers
Image: India international Bala Devi made history when she signed for Rangers

"This route has opened up for me, and if the players in India now have the chance to watch, and get a better idea of the standard of football that is played over here, that can only help their development," she said.

"The playing style over here is a little different to India. The football is the same, but the playing style is different, it's very high intensity.

"If more Indian players, particularly the younger ones, get exposure to that or also get the chance to do it, that would be great. For sure, the Indian girls are capable of playing in any country. They could play anywhere because they have quality."

India 'is praying for Devi's success'

"In a country where sportsmen have always been the main focus, Bala Devi has emerged as a sensation in women's football," writes Subhajit Majumder, special correspondent at Kolkata-based Anandabazar Patrika.

"Growing up playing with boys has made her faster, stronger, and technically sound, and has also helped prepare her for the intense physical training in Scotland compared to what she was used to in India.

"After scoring her first goal for Rangers earlier this month, Bala Devi is dreaming of scoring a hat-trick for her new club. The whole country is proud of her and praying for her success."

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