Ngangom Bala Devi of the Indian team has been named the AIFF Women's 'Footballer of the Year,' with Manisha winning the 'Emerging Player' award for the 2020-21 season.

This is the third time the mercurial striker has won the award, having won it twice in a row in 2014 and 2015.

Bala, who currently plays for Rangers FC in Scotland, made her debut for the team in February of last year and made history when she scored her first competitive goal for them in December.

She is still the first Indian woman to sign a professional contract in Europe.

On receiving the honour, the 31-year-old Bala said: "I'd also like to thank my coaches -- both at my club in Rangers, and in the national team, and also and all the coaches that I've played under in the past.

"A big thank you also to my family and all my teammates for all the support.”

“I arrived in Scotland last year, just before the global lockdown had started, and acclimatising to any new place in such conditions has been extremely difficult. But with their help, I have been able to focus on the things that are most important, and keep myself in top shape, both mentally and physically," she added.

Manisha, a 19-year-old forward, won the award for the first time.

 "This award motivates me to push further to work harder for my team and achieve our goals," she added.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff of the National team who taught me and made me capable enough for this award. I would further extend my gratitude to my teammates without whom the award couldn't have been possible. My family, my coaches, teachers – a big thank you to all."

 

Manisha, a former India U-17 and U-19 international, made her senior national team debut against Hong Kong in 2019 and has gone from strength to strength since then.

She also won the Emerging Player of the Tournament Award in the 2019-20 Indian Women's League, where she helped Gokulam Kerala FC win the championship.

Both winners were chosen by Maymol Rocky, the national team's head coach, in consultation with Savio Medeira, the interim technical director of the All India Football Federation.

Meanwhile, Tejas Nagvenkar received the AIFF Award for best referee, while Sumanta Dutta was named best assistant referee.

AIFF president Praful Patel said, "I would like to congratulate the award winners for the season as Indian football continues to move forward together. They are inspirations for one and all, and all of us are proud of them and share the joy."