Drake songs, fan moment, heartwarming gesture: Takeaways from Mia Bhuta's superb start at FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup
Mia Bhuta is one of the three captains for the USA at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, and she kicked off her campaign with an assist and a left-foot stunner.
The FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup is underway in India and one name that has grabbed many eyeballs is Mia Bhuta, the first player of Indian descent to represent the United States at a World Cup. It didn't take much time for the 16-year-old to stamp her authority, banging a screamer from long range in USA's opener against India, which also saw her side clinch a thumping 8-0 victory over the hosts in Bhubaneshwar earlier this week.
Soon after the moment, her popularity soared on the internet, with congratulatory messages dropping from all parts of the world and some of the the best in the business appreciating her incredible effort. One of them was US Women's National Team (USWNT) winger Megan Rapinoe, but Mia surprisingly wasn't aware of what had transpired until a staff member passed on the information to her after a drug test post-match.
"So after the game they randomly picked like two people to get drug tested. So it was like two hours after the game. We were finally on our way back just fitting in the car. And one of our staff members was just like 'Hey, you're on her (Megan's) Instagram story.' And immediately I was like 'No way. Like, let me see.'
"And then I saw it and just like texted my parents and they were like, 'Oh wow.' Like, that's crazy. So yeah, it was just a really fun moment," the midfielder told journalists during a virtual press conference from Bhubaneshwar on Thursday night.
FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup: In star and stripes, Mia Bhuta comes ‘home’
Rapinoe is a leading figure in women's football and led the USA to victory at the Women's Football World Cup in 2019. Besides her pool of talent, the winger was one of the strongest voices behind USWNT's fight for equality in sport in terms of equal pay and sexuality.
"I mean, she's someone that I've always looked up to. She's an incredible player. But off the field, she just seems like an even better person. I've never met her personally, but I've just seen how much she's done for the game and how much she speaks up on other matters that are important to her. So I also look up to her for those reasons.
"She made such an impact on the world's soccer. And she's one of the reasons why now girls like me have so many opportunities in the United States," said Mia.
Mia is one of the three captains for the USA for the tournament, and she kicked off her campaign with an assist and a left-foot stunner. She was also part of the unit, which helped the USA lift the U-17 CONCACAF Championship, defeating Mexico in the finals.
What keeps Mia pumped up ahead of a match is "listening to Drake, lot of Drake". The midfielder and "best friend" Gisele Thompson, a defender in the US U-17 team, follow the ritual before every match. When asked to name her favourite, if any, the 16-year-old said: "Drake song… there are just so many. I'm gonna be honest, I like the old albums more. The new ones didn't hit the same, but old ones definitely better."
Mia's father, Vyom Bhuta, was fond of tennis and had moved to the USA from India at the young age of 16 to pursue better athletic opportunities. Her daughter has now taken it upon herself to inspire other girls and is doing a rather commendable job of it. Mia, along with her teammates recently donated footballing equipment to local talent in Bhubaneshwar.
The moment reminded Mia of her younger self, who once dreamt of reaching the big stage, where she is now. Sharing her thoughts on the same, the midfielder noted: "That donation was really special. Just seeing all those girls there, seeing their faces light up. It was something that was really inspiring. It just showed how much passion they have, and how big they can dream.
"I just really want them to believe in themselves and believe that they can do it. So for us, that generation was trying to aid them as much as we can in their journey. Something that we have the privilege of having in the United States is access to good cleats, shoes, balls, and clothing. So we wanted to help them out with that. Giving them some stuff that they might not be able to get here."
"I think the Indian program has so much potential. There's so much talent here. I think that the world needs to invest in them more and they need to believe in the young girls and give them the opportunities to succeed. And I think they can go really far," she added.
Just like most football fans, Mia too admires Lionel Messi and is a huge Barcelona fan, the team she followed the most growing up. Sophia Smith and Catarina Macario are among the women footballers, she looks up to the most.