Forbes savouring South American adventure

  • Forbes has been Trinidad and Tobago's No1 since 2006

  • She won the 2016 Copa Libertadores Femenina with Paraguay's Sportivo Limpeno

  • The goalkeeper is currently impressing in the newly launched professional league in Colombia

Kimika Forbes was playing lower-league football in the United States when, in October 2016, she was approached by Paraguayan outfit Sportivo Limpeno about representing them in the Copa Libertadores Femenina that December.

The goalkeeper, who has been Trinidad and Tobago's No1 since 2006, did not need much convincing. Despite not speaking Spanish, she jumped at the chance to sign her first proper professional contract at the age of 26, deciding to take the plunge and try her luck in South America.

Her arrival generated plenty of buzz. "They'd watched a video of my best-ever performance, against USA in the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship. We lost 1-0 that day, but I made some great saves," Forbes told, before adding with a chuckle, "When I got there, they probably wondered if I was the same person!"

She slowly but surely overcame the language barrier: "First I learnt the word for 'goalkeeper'. Then 'right', 'left' and 'push out'. It was all about being able to communicate with my defenders."

The 6'0 (1.83m) shot-stopper more than lived up to expectations, starring in Limpeno's run to Libertadores glory and becoming the first Caribbean native to win the competition in the process. "It was an unforgettable experience. I was surprised by how much attention that victory got. I'd never seen anything like it before."

On the back of those exploits, Bogota-based club Independiente Santa Fe came calling, offering her a one-year contract and the prospect of featuring in the inaugural edition of the Colombian Professional Women's Football League. Again, she did not think twice and duly seized the opportunity.

"I settled in quickly, both at the club and in the country. It's of a higher standard and more competitive than I'd expected. We're doing really well in terms of results and I'm also enjoying sharing a dressing room with players from the likes of Venezuela and Costa Rica, besides the Colombians. It's culturally enriching."

The keeper has relished refining her technique in Paraguay and Colombia, having found that "the emphasis was on the physical side" in the United States. As a consequence, she considers herself a "more complete keeper" now, although she believes she still has room for improvement.

Early steps Forbes got her first taste of the beautiful game during her childhood in the humble Tobagonian town of Plymouth – when she was eight years old, to be precise: "My cousins spent all day playing football. I was curious, so I gave it a go and I loved it. So much so that now I eat, sleep and breathe football. It's the only thing I watch on TV."

She and her sister Karen, who is two years her junior and is also an international, were the only girls who played locally at that time. "People laughed at us, but we were just having fun. Only later did we start to take it more seriously."

This 'later' includes both at her first club, where Forbes played with boys but also helped to set up the girls' team, and during secondary school, where she first discovered her aptitude between the sticks.

"We didn't have a keeper, so I volunteered and we reached the final of a tournament. Afterwards, I told the coach I only wanted to keep goal from then on," said the self-described admirer of Hope Solo, Almuth Schult, Iker Casillas and – in her words, the "most complete" of the lot – Manuel Neuer.

Moving on up Forbes was just 15 when she received her first international call-up and she won her first cap a year later, against Mexico in the qualifying tournament for the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007™.

Thanks to two scholarships, she was subsequently able to complete a degree in physical education – specialising in coaching – in the States, where she also played at college and semi-professional level.

She definitively "fell in love with the game" in 2010, when the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup was held in her homeland. "I told myself, 'One day I want to play in a World Cup'."

She and her Trinidad and Tobago team-mates almost fulfilled that dream at Canada 2015, only for Ecuador to break the islanders' hearts in the intercontinental play-off. "It's going to be tougher now: USA are a superpower, Canada are resurgent, we always find it difficult against Mexico, and Costa Rica have progressed."

The future Nevertheless, she is optimistic about the direction in which the Soca Princesses are headed under new Italian coach Carolina Morace, whose presence could yet also have an impact on her club career. "There have been talks about me going to Italy, but nothing concrete has come of it. I'm happy in Colombia, though, and it'd be nice to spend another season here."

In the meantime, Forbes is gearing up to launch an academy for goalkeepers and also runs women's football events whenever she can in her native Tobago, "because the game has grown less there than in Trinidad".

"My idea is to give back to the community right away, not just when my body packs in. Football has the potential to be an outlet for other girls, just like it was for me. I want to do my bit to make that happen."