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It’s not every day that a young footballer born and raised in sunny California happens to be strolling through central Bangkok when a bus roars by with her picture on it.
That’s exactly what happened to Miranda Nild earlier this week, however, as one of the rising stars of the Thailand national team was in camp preparing for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The 22-year-old did what most her age would do and raced to grab a picture of the bus before it zoomed off – thankfully Bangkok traffic allows ample opportunity for that – and let out a brief scream of excitement at the unusual encounter.
The fact that women’s football is starting to slowly crack through a crowded sporting landscape is a sure sign of progress in the Southeast Asian nation, and when the team heads to what will be just Thailand’s second World Cup, they’ll be sure to be one of the more fanatically backed sides in France.
“I just want to take it all in and use this as a kind of job interview if you know what I mean, the chance for me to show what I can do at this kind of level.”
— Miranda Nild
For the American-born, Thai international, though, the opening match will have greater meaning than for most as Nild prepares to represent her father’s homeland against the nation in which she was raised.
“I was watching the draw live and it was such a wave of emotion when I realized that Thailand would be playing our first match against the USA, and when I saw those cards being placed side-by-side I couldn’t believe it,” she told mycujoo this week from the Thai capital.
“It will definitely be such an emotional game for me and the coolest of my life as I get to stand on the same pitch as so many players that I looked up to when I was growing up – the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and especially Alex Morgan, who went to the same college as me in California.”
While admitting it might be slightly awkward given she could be tempted to sing both national anthems, the opportunity of a lifetime is not lost on the young star who will return briefly to America before the World Cup to complete her college graduation.
“I just want to take it all in and use this as a kind of job interview if you know what I mean, the chance for me to show what I can do at this kind of level,” she said.
Meet Miranda Nild — known as Suchawadee Nildhamrong in Thailand — the American-born Thai international who will line up against the #USWNT at the World Cup.
— The Equalizer (@EqualizerSoccer) May 24, 2019
Known in Thailand as Suchawadee Nildhamrong, the dangerous forward has already scored a dozen goals in her brief international career following a chance connection that led to a rapid call-up two years ago.
“I’d always trained with a friend of my fathers who was a former Thai international – who I refer to as my uncle – and he mentioned me to the association in Thailand,” she said. “Within a couple of weeks, they had seen my videos and invited me into camp. It all happened very quickly.
“That was back in 2017 and it was a decision that my parents supported, I’d never really been called into any national camps in America and I knew it would be hard for me playing at smaller teams, so naturally my parents were thrilled for me to represent Thailand.”
With a growing women’s league in Thailand – with those matches available exclusively on mycujoo – the young forward has also spent time recently playing for powerhouse local club team Chonburi in a league that she said has massive potential.
“The fact that we have a league now is awesome and it’s really important for all of our players to have the chance to play regular football rather than just being in camp all of the time,” she said.
“Not just in Thailand, but across the world, you can see the positive changes that are coming for women’s soccer and although there’s still a lot to cover, it’s really encouraging that the game is progressing so quickly.”
Football, though, wasn’t always the first choice for Nild as a young girl. Her father played American Football in his youth and her parents encouraged her and her brother to take up as many sports as possible to help build their character.
After settling on the global game, though, there’s been no looking back for the young forward who also had little trouble adjusting to her new international teammates given that she’d stayed in touch with Thai culture from a young age.
“My father was born in Thailand but came to America when he was 10 and we had family there, so I was always surrounded by Thai culture,” Nild said.
“There is a temple near our house that my grandmother was heavily involved in so I would often go there when I was younger and that helped me to learn the language and culture which meant that it was easier to adjust to the team in Thailand.
“The girls in the team are really welcoming and are always open to helping me with anything I need and if they weren’t it would have made the transition so much harder.”
After having modeled her game on Liverpool’s Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino at the behest of her college coach, Nild is now prepared to dream big as Thailand take on the might of the defending champion USA as well as Sweden and Chile.
“This will be our second World Cup and the same as last time, we have the defending champion in our group,” she said. “But we’re not focusing on that because our aim is to reach the next round.
“Personally, I just want to settle my nerves down and help the team to reach that goal, but it will be cool for sure to look across at the American players and realize that now we are on the same stage for that opening match.”
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