India international from Manipur Dangmei Grace landed in Uzbekistan on July 4 to play for FC Nasaf with a six-month deal.
Grace is the third Indian woman player, after goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan and forward Bala Devi, to get a professional contract outside south Asia. Midfielder Bembem Devi, an inspiration for Grace, played a season in the Maldives.
“She will represent FC Nasaf next season. We wish her all the best! See you soon in Uzbekistan,” her former club Gokulam Kerala posted on Twitter.
The Uzbekistan Super League, which commenced in June, will continue till December 15, Nasaf FC has communicated in a letter to the Manipur youth affairs and sports department.
“She will be playing in the three tournaments – Women’s League, Uzbekistan Cup (knock-out tournament), and Uzbekistan Super Cup during her stint,” the club’s general director A Yusupov wrote.
The Uzbek club was founded in 1986.
“The league will give her a lot of international experience and help in her footballing development and career.”
Hailing from a family of farmers, the nimble-footed winger from a small village of Dimdailong in Manipur is feared for her electric pace, and exceptional dribbling skills.
Adjudged the ‘AIFF Emerging Player of the Year’ in 2019, the 26-year-old shone with a brace against Indonesia in the Olympic Qualifier Round 2 match.
Having started her IWL career with the Imphal-based KRYPHSA FC and then won the tournament with Sethu FC, Dangmei joined Gokulam Kerala.
The feisty forward caught international attention in the AFC Women’s Club Championship 2021 where she was particularly impressive against Bunyodkar.
“Like with every player, it was a dream to play abroad, a dream that is about to be realised now. I am very excited,” Dangmei Grace was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
It is learnt that Nasaf had wanted Dangmei Grace in January but as she was on a contract with Gokulam Kerala, it didn’t happen then.
And Nasaf was prepared to wait till the Indian Women’s League (IWL), which Gokulam Kerala FC (GKFC) won at a canter, ended.
The Uzbek club reached out to her through India team manager Hilda Gurung, who is now in Norway with the national under-17 side.