By HENRY MORABANG
TO have gone from the small rural township of Angoram in East Sepik to the home of the most powerful man on the globe, US president Barrack Obama in Washington DC, is a dream come true for Under-20 woman soccer player Esmeralda Waipo.
She is one of the 25 players vying and working hard to secure a spot in the final 21 for the upcoming World Cup next month in Port Moresby.
She is likely the first Angoram woman to made it far in representative football, and hopes to continue at the senior level in the coming years.
“Yes, I am very excited about my football dream and I am working very hard to achieve it.
“I have been working hard on the field, especially on the flanks, to ensure I cover the area well, and ensure I win a spot in the final squad,” she said by telephone yesterday from Goroka, where she was training.
Putting her studies on hold, she is one of many players who play and train fulltime with the squad at their adopted home at the National Sports Institute in Goroka.
Age 18, the Grade 10 student from Brandi Secondary School outside Wewak town, was first identified by the Papua New Guinea Football Association scouting team in Wewak last year.
With no school soccer team, Waipo transited between Brandi and Wewak to play for her local club, Heart FC in the town competition.
She came through the limelight when she starred for Wewak in the U17 women’s tournament in Madang, where Wewak finished third after beating Madang. Waipo was the talk of the championship when she was crowned player-of-the-tournament and also won the Golden Boot award for being the top goal-scorer with five goals during the tournament.
When asked about her selection, Waipo said she was picked from the school competition in the bid to pick an U20 soccer squad.
As PNGFA has no development plans for an U20 competition, the PNG coaching staff have been travelling far and wide to catch young players to make the team, and Waipo was one of those picked.
She said travelling the world was unbelievable but it was all thanks to football.
As the daughter of Angoram MP Salio Waipo, Esmeralda does not want to be connected with her father’s political dream; hers is a football dream.
The third in the family, Waipo said her father was once a football player but politics took its toll on him and he hung his boots.
Waipo said she has picked and learnt many new things on her football trips to South Korea and the United States, and would use that in her life.
As a young girl, the PNG U20 flanker said she was willing to learn more and would give her best if given the opportunity to play for her country.
She hoped to return home after the World Cup or the U20 camp in Goroka to help her womenfolk at Angoram play football.
For now, with November around the corner, Waipo wants to give her best and make the final team.
By HENRY MORABANG