Asha James,18, of Canaan, Tobago, is the only Tobagonian selected to represent the country in the U-20 National Women football team for the CONCACAF Women’s Championships, which kicks off at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva today. T&T faces Haiti in its opening match at 6.30pm.
Speaking with Newsday Tobago on Monday, James said she felt elated when she received news,a week ago, that she had been selected.
She said her dream of becoming a national footballer started at the age of 11 when her passion and love for the sport began.
“I feel glad to be a part of a team to once again represent T&T. I was a part of the Under 15 and Under 17 women’s football team. I really worked hard to accomplish this so, when I found out I was chosen I was surprised. During the try-outs, I put my best foot forward for the coaches to see what I was able to do.”
Currently attending Florida International University, the teen said she owns all her accomplishments in sport to God, adding that her spiritual life plays a significant role in her journey.
“At the beginning, it didn’t look like I would be successful enough to make the team. I went to God, I prayed and cried out because this is something I dedicated most of my time and effort towards. I’m thanking God it happened and now I have the opportunity to live a dream by representing my country in a sport I love.”
The striker said her future plan is to collaborate and grow with her team to qualify and capture the title in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in France.
“We are trying to get one of the three spots that would allow us to go to France and play in the World Cup in August this year.”
James believes her former colleague Abiela Adams, 16, of Mary’s Hill, who was an aspiring footballer but was found dead on February 11 last year, at Courland, Plymouth would have also made the national team.
“The potential she had, I know she would have also been on this team. It is sad to know that she was taken like that. It’s almost a year since she was murdered. But God knows best.” Adams and James were members of the Jewels football club in Tobago and also former students of Signal Hill Secondary.
James, who also participates in track and field and beach football, said, after her father died, her mother became her driving force, which allowed her to find strength when she considered giving up.
“There was a time my mother was telling me that I need to choose one sport, but my father told my mother to leave me to try all the different sports I was interested in; he would support me in all. From ever since, I played three different sports including long-distance running, track and field and football, all at the same time. Above all the sports I am involved in I, prefer football.
“Balancing academic and sportsman life had become easy and it is comes hand in hand for me after balancing it for so many years.”
But she said in November she became discouraged after gaining some weight.
“This kept me back, but even with the weight and even with the strong feeling of discouragement – thinking if I will make the team or if I will be good enough – I continued to push.”
Her advice to aspiring footballers is to trust God. “Mathew 6:13 says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all other things shall be added unto you.’ So I would encourage those with football as their passion to seek God first, since He knows all our desires. Once He gets our all, He will grant all our wishes. A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”
She said she hopes to become a pastor or a sports official one day.
Originally published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday