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Jale relishing senior debut tournament

Grace Jale in action against Ghana in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France. Photo: FIFA via Getty Images

New Zealand football sensation Grace Jale is living her dream playing in her first major senior tournament with the Football Ferns in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup here in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Grace made her Nations Cup debut with a goal against Tonga coming on as a second half substitute on Monday at Stade Numa Daly.

She said the debut goal was one of the highlights for her having come through the age-group sides with appearances in the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups.

“My highlights so far in my football career would probably be the U-17, the two U-20 World Cups and definitely the game just passed against Tonga, my first cap,” she said.

“It was really exciting I thought that I wouldn’t get that much game time for my debut and a goal so I am really honored and thankful.”

The 19-year-old said it’s not every day that you have a chance to play for the Football Ferns and represent New Zealand as a country.

“It feels amazing, it’s such an honour every time we put on the shirt. It’s a feeling like no other it’s hard to describe,” the midfielder said.

Grace was born and raised in Auckland to a Fijian father and Kiwi mother.

She started playing football at the age of seven and went on to represent New Zealand in the age-group sides and earned a call-up to the senior team for this year’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

With a squad full of experience players, Grace is determined to get more playing time in the latter stage of the competition.

“Hopefully some more minutes but it just a new team, new beginnings and new coach so I’ll try to fit in the team as much as possible.

“His (coach) best advice on the first day was to be myself, be free on the pitch just express myself which is really comforting.

“We came in this knowing that we have to make a good impression and start the tournament off well,” she added.

Just in August this year Grace was offered a professional contract by European football club Sparta Prague.

For now she is eager to play a part in helping the Football Ferns return on the world stage at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next year.

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