Background in athletics has helped me grow as winger: Dangmei Grace

Indian women’s team star Dangmei Grace may have made a name for herself by leaving a number of flat-footed defenders in her wake, but the 24-year-old has her sporting roots not in the beautiful game, but in track and field events — more specifically, short-distance races.

Speaking to AIFF TV during a freewheeling interview, Grace informed that as a kid, she had started out with running the 100m and 200m races back in her school. “Back in my childhood days, our school in Bishnupur used to conduct a sports event every year. One year it would be individual sports, and the next year it would be team sports. I used to get selected for the 100m and 200m races, and we also used to go to different places like Kohima in Nagaland for sports meets,” she stated.

However, the youngster was unable to join a proper training centre due to a language barrier and instead continued with her studies – till she found football.

“I had never really given football much thought, but one of my friends invited me to a game once back in school. My father was quite supportive me when I wanted to play the tournament, and I think that was the turning point of my life. I think having a background in track and field really helped me grow as a wide player, as I already had the speed,” she said.

“I had joined a football training centre, but it was a bit far from my school. So as soon as the bell rang at 3 pm, I had to run home, get changed and rush to the training centre again,” Grace added.

Her talent soon began to show and Grace soon began to represent her state in the junior nationals, before being called up for the national team. Soon after, she was called up for the senior team as a teenager.

“When I first got called up for the senior team in 2013, I did not have much idea about things. But once I was at the senior team, I saw for the first time, how players like Bembem (Devi) di and Bala (Devi) di trained and went about their things,” the defender said.

“As a youngster, it was a very good learning experience for me. Watching the seniors put their all in the game inspired me to work harder. I wanted to play like them one day, and that desire kept me motivated,” she added.

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