India forward Bala Devi was named Women’s Footballer of the Year, while Manisha Kalyan won the Women’s Emerging Footballer of the Year at the annual AIFF awards 2020-21.
“I’m so happy to have won this award. A big thank you to the AIFF and all the fans for their support. 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,” said Bala.
This marks the third time the 31-year-old has received the honour, having previously won it two years in a row in 2014 and 2015. Currently playing for the Rangers Women’s FC in Scotland, she remains the first Indian woman footballer to sign a professional contract in Europe.
Manisha, also a forward, expressed her delight at being named for the prestigious award for the first time.
She said, “This award motivates me to push further to work harder for my team and achieve our goals.”
A former India U-17 and U-19 international, Manisha made her senior national team debut against Hong Kong in 2019. She also received the Emerging Player of the Tournament award at the 2019-20 Hero Indian Women’s League, where she played a key role in Gokulam Kerala FC’s run to the title.
Both the winners were chosen by national team head coach Maymol Rocky in consultation with interim Technical Director Savio Medeira.
The award for the Best Referee went to Tejas Nagvencar while Sumanta Dutta was adjudged the Best Assistant Referee.