Dangmei Grace has been an inseparable part of the Indian women football team for quite some. She is young and has already proved her worth in the forward. Now, the feisty forward from Manipur is excited to play against Brazil.
As the Blue Tigress left for the Latin American country to play three matches, Dangmei Grace spoke to The News Mill.
The Indian Women’s Team, who are ranked 57 on the FIFA World Rankings, will face off against World No. 7 Brazil on November 25, Chile (World No. 37) on November 28, and Venezuela (World No. 56) on December 1. The Confederacao Brasileira de Desportos (CBF) has already named the full squad for Brazil, which also contains legends of the game like Marta da Silva and Formiga Mota.
Some of the excerpts:
Your team will be the first-ever Indian senior side to play against Brazil? How excited you guys are?
I doubt if I can explain the feeling. Brazil is such a big team, with so much history in football.
We have grown up seeing Brazil play in the world cup. Both men’s and women’s and have so many top players who have been inspirational figures for so many women all over the world. It will be an honour to play against them, and we are all very thankful to both the federations for giving us this unique opportunity.
But one thing is for sure – the coach (Thomas Dennerby) has been developing a fearless attitude in the girls. We all have immense respect for our opponents – not only Brazil, but also Chile and Venezuela, and all the teams that we have recently played. But we are not going to be backed down by rankings of these teams. We’ll fight for every inch of turf in all our matches.
Recently, Indian women have been on a few exposure tours… Do you think this is the right way to move ahead?
For sure. If you look at the six exposure matches that we played, the level of our opponents increased gradually. First, we played UAE, Tunisia and Bahrain – all ranked below us. Then Chinese Taipei, who are ranked higher. For obvious reasons, the pace of the game against them was higher.
Then we played Hammarby and Djurgarden in Sweden. Those were very difficult games, especially with the sudden change in the climate. Also, they were very physical teams. Though we did not win those matches, we still managed to give a good account of ourselves as a team, so you can see the gradual improvement.
And now, of course, we will play against Brazil in our next game, and they are among the top 10 teams in the world, so that will give us good telemetry on how we can perform in fast-paced games. It’s not just Brazil. Chile and Venezuela will also be really tough games for us, and they will be a good test for all the girls.
Also, how you are looking forward to the AFC Women’s Cup which India is hosting?
The Asian Cup is on all of our minds. But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. We need to go step by step. Thomas sir has put out a process for us to get up to a certain level by the time we play the Asian Cup, and we need to trust that process. He has come with enormous experience and is guiding us all in various aspects.
Right now, it’s all about getting up to the level where we can put ourselves in a good position in our group and then take it from there.
The recently concluded AFC Women’s Club Championship 2021 is a historic moment not just for your club Gokulam Kerala but for the country as well.
Though the results were not great but for an Indian team, it’s a wonderful beginning. What do you think?
Yes, the results were a bit difficult to digest, especially because I think our team deserved much better. We lost both our first two matches, but both those games were very close and could have swung either way. Ultimately, just a few factors ended up deciding them. At any rate, it was a good learning experience for us all. We will take it all in our stride and try to do better in the future.
(Gokulam Kerala became the first team from India to feature in a continental women’s club tournament of this magnitude. The tournament featured four teams – India’s Gokulam Kerala FC, Uzbekistan’s FC Bunyodkor, Iran’s Shahrdari Sirjan and Jordan’s Amman SC. All four sides are the reigning domestic champions in their respective countries.)
What has been your personal experience?
It was a good experience for me on a personal level. I also got to wear the captain’s armband in the match against Bunyodkor, and we also won that game, so that was a very nice feeling. Uzbek teams tend to be a very tough bunch. We have played against their national team before, and we knew how difficult they would be as a side. But I’m happy that we could win that match. It would have been better to win the other two games, too, but it is what it is.
But our focus is now solely on the three matches in Brazil. We played six tough games with the National Team in UAE, Bahrain and Sweden, followed by three more for the club in Jordan. In terms of match fitness, we feel good.