As a child her mother used to dress her up like a doll. But fancy dresses and shiny sandals impressed her the least.

Kinley Wangmo, 18, relishes walking around town in shorts and slippers. She carries her pixie-cut proudly and most of her friends are males. Her passion is football.

“It’s simple. I’m a girl and I love to play football.”

Following her passion, the class XI student of Dungsam Academy in Samdrupjongkhar has arrived in the capital city to participate in the Thimphu Women’s League that kicks off today at the Changlimithang stadium.

Kinley Wangmo played for the under-18 national team from 2016-2018. As a national player, she scored more than 50 goals for the team. The nimble footed striker is known for her accurate passing and skillful dribbling skills.

She started playing football at the age of six. “I naturally connected to the game when I first saw some of the boys playing,” she said. “Moreover, my parents were supportive and allowed me to follow my interest.”

She said that her father who was once an avid footballer broke his leg during a game. “After the accident, he never touched the ball again. However, he constantly encouraged me to pursue my passion for the sport.”

But there were several criticisms along the way as she continued her footballing journey. “There were people who discouraged me to play the game as it was considered a man’s game. They were somehow offended that I was a girl who looked like a boy and played football,” she said. “I didn’t let it bother me. I had my family and friends who encouraged me to continue.”

Kinley Wangmo had to leave the national squad after failing to qualify for higher studies. She however, continued playing at her new school. “I never left the game. But I always wanted more.”

When she heard about the fourth edition of the Thimphu Women’s League, she decided to be a part of the tournament. Kinley Wangmo will play for Thimphu City Ladies in the inaugural match against Sunrise Women’s FC later today.

“As a child I wanted to be a part of the national team. It came true,” she said. “I also wanted to paly for Thimphu City and it has been made possible for me by many people who saw the potential in me. I’m very grateful.”

Donning her favourite player’s (Tshering Dorji of Thimphu City) jersey number, 16, the striker expects a fruitful tournament. “Winning is important but more than that, it is about playing good football. I expect to give the audience a good show.”

Younten Tshedup