Priyanka Sujeesh, a midfielder coming through at the Academy in Mumbai, India, will go away with her national squad until the end of March as they hope to qualify for the AFC U20 cup for the first time.
She entered the #SameGoals campaign, which aims to inspire the next generation of female footballers, and believes it is a great way to encourage more young girls like her to get involved in football.
She said: “Growing up as a footballer I never had a role model to look up to from India, which is quite important for a sports person to learn from and get inspired by.
“This campaign encourages girls to play football and learn, which is quite important and I’m all in for it.”
Leaving home for long periods of time at an early age to pursue a footballing dream is a daunting prospect, but also something familiar to Stokes, who switched her native North East for a scholarship with South Florida Bulls back in 2011.
Drawing on the past experience, our England international had some words of wisdom for Priyanka ahead of linking up with her national team in their quest for qualification.
“When you go to camp, make sure you’re confident and if you ever feel like you’re not, just think: ‘I’m one of the youngest here. I’ve got a lot more learning to do,’ Stokes advised Priyanka.
“Good luck, but I don’t think you need it! I think you’ll be just fine, you’ve worked very hard but keep it up!”
And those simple words of encouragement had a massive impact on the 16-year-old.
She said: “It was a great opportunity for me as I always wanted to know about a professional women’s player.
“I learned a lot about her personal experience as she shifted from the UK to the US to study and train.”
#SameGoals pledges to deliver a special limited-edition football provided by PUMA to every girl who shares a video of them scoring – or saving – a goal to grow her passion and help her focus on achieving her dreams.
Get involved by following the link here.
Hear Priyanka’s story in greater detail, plus more from her conversation with Demi Stokes, by clicking on the video above.