Treble-winner Dangmei Grace loves to lead from the front

NEW DELHI: Six months ago, Dangmei Grace returned to India after winning both the league and cup titles with PFC Sevinch Karshi in Uzbekistan. 

On home soil, she added another trophy to her cabinet recently – she was the proud captain of the mighty Gokulam Kerala FC, who won the Hero Indian Women’s League title for the third time in a row.

“It’s a great feeling and I am truly happy that I could achieve this for the team as the captain,” Grace told AIFF from Kochi. “It all comes down to hard work. The result in the final (5-0 against Kickstart FC) was a little beyond expectations, but we knew that winning the third consecutive title would surely be the best thing to happen for Gokulam Kerala as a club. I want to salute all my teammates for everything they did – on and off the pitch,” she added. 

The Blue Tigresses winger moved to Uzbekistan in 2022 and won the Uzbekistan Women’s League and the Women’s Cup in the same season, scoring four goals. When asked about the most important reason behind her success of winning three titles, Grace said that maintaining discipline remained the highest point in her career.

“Discipline. It’s a must if anyone wants to achieve his or her goals — this is the most important thing I have learned in all these years. Defending the title was important, but another thing that we as a team were able to maintain was discipline.”

Conferred with the Football Player’s Association of India’s (FPAI) Player of the Year award recently, Grace emphasised that carrying the mantle of captaincy is never an easy task. She was the captain for KRYPSHA FC, Manipur, in the inaugural year of the Hero IWL in 2017 and finished as the second runners-up. 

“Lifting a trophy as the captain is surely exciting, but the task has its own responsibilities too. You wear the armband on the pitch and everyone looks up to you. It’s not at all easy. The whole team goes through a lot of ups and downs, which, normally, not many people can spot from the outside.

“When the team is down, I have to make sure each and every player stays motivated and pulls themselves up for a better show the next day. I have to be there and push players in every situation to give their best on and off the field.”

She mentioned the most challenging moment she faced as the captain of Gokulam Kerala FC. “The most challenging one this season was the aftermath of the unexpected draw against Misaka United FC. Everyone was feeling low and the environment was quite depressing on that particular day. But I personally went to each and every player to talk about things that went wrong. 

“Coach entrusted me with the responsibility of lifting the mood of the team and I think it was the most difficult task of all. I never knew what was going on in everyone’s mind after the unexpected result. But I tried my best to make everyone comfortable and talk about positive things,” she said.

Grace said that her stint in Uzbekistan also helped her be a better player in all aspects. “The dressing room atmosphere in Uzbekistan is different; they attach a lot of importance to discipline. And that’s what I find unique about the foreign players. Here also, with three foreign players in Gokulam Kerala FC, I have observed one thing, they listen very carefully and then they perform. Something to learn from them,” she concluded.

Also ReadPlaying Hero IWL was a fine experience, says Kickstart owner Laxman Bhattarai

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