India’s centre-forward Dangmei Grace, who was adjudged as the Best Emerging Player in 2019 by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), said that Bala Devi’s journey to European club Rangers has motivated the new generation of women footballers to dream big.
In a conversation with The Bridge from her hometown in Manipur amid the nationwide lockdown, the 24-year-old also expressed her dream of playing at a big club in Europe one day. Her state-mate Bala had recently scripted history as she signed an 18-month deal with Scottish side Rangers FC earlier this year.
“That’s (Bala’s signing) really a great thing to happen for not just women’s football but overall Indian football. That gives us a ray hope for a better tomorrow. Now, we have also started to believe that we can play like Bala di and it’s a huge inspiration for the young generation of footballers like us that we can also play for big clubs in Europe someday,” Grace said.
“We too have a dream to follow the footsteps of Bala di. Now, the Indian girls should also take it as a challenge that if Bala di has gone there, they too can do it,” she added.
Grace said that donning the jersey of Chelsea or Arsenal women team is a dream she would like to realize.
During the lockdown she is also working in their family garden along with her other workout routines to keep herself fit.
“Though I’m desperate to get back to action at the earliest, it’s not possible now. We can’t help. The situation is so. Let’s abide by what the government has to say. I pray that this crisis gets over soon. But staying at home, I need to keep myself fit. I took advice from our team physio Priyanka (Bodkhe) ma’am. She sent me a Monday-Saturday routine which I do in morning and evening. That’s how I remain busy and keeping myself fit,” Grace, who has scored 15 goals in 39 matches for India, said.
She added, “Apart from that, I have been working in the gardens of our family. We have huge gardens and it’s time for plantation. So, I go out with my brothers and other family members in the garden and do some work using the spade etc. It’s great joy to be engaged there apart from being a good physical workout.”
Grace, who made her India debut in 2013, is also hopeful of better days for Indian women football. She, however, said that India need to keep playing with better ranked teams.
“Earlier, there were very less number of games. We had to wait for the AFC Cup qualifiers or the national leagues. Those were the only matches. But now, the things are changing gradually. Now, the women’s league is also taking place. It’s getting competitive. I think the women’s football is also getting more attention now. The AIFF is too playing their part so well by conducting more events to keep us busy and engaged. Last two years have been great for Indian women football. Like the exposure tours which helped us a lot to learn and develop, I think to continue playing with higher ranked sides is also very important,” Grace added.
She also mentioned about India’s tour to Vietnam to play friendly where they ended up with a draw.
“They are far superior than as they are ranked 33 and we are 50 something. There is a huge gap between us. But we played draw with them. Playing with higher ranked teams, we can improve our performances. And if we can continue with this winning spirit, we can defeat any opponent. Apart from that, the associations need to conduct more leagues and tournaments for women. And the media too has a role to play here. To give more space to women football so that it can grow,” she reckoned.