Thursday 20 January 2022, 07:00

Chetthabutr: I fell in love with football at a temple

  • Thailand are set to begin their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign

  • Kanyanat Chetthabutr is eager to help them reach Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • She wants “to help Thailand become a powerhouse in women's football”

Many strikers are renowned for scoring goals, but how many have a reputation for scoring hat-tricks? Count Kanyanat Chetthabutr among the small group. The 22-year-old struck a treble in a 5-1 win over Indonesia at the SEA Games in 2019 and then in a 4-0 defeat of Malaysia in September’s AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifying opener.

The latter result helped the Thais cruise to a place at India 2022, which also serves as Asia’s qualifying competition for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™. Miyo Okamoto's side kick off their campaign against the Philippines on Friday and Chetthabutr has high hopes. “I'm very pleased to have scored the hat-trick against Malaysia,” she told “Because Women's Asian Cup qualifying was our first major competition after a long period, and my goals helped our team qualify for the final competition. “India 2022 is my second Women's Asian Cup. We succeeded in qualifying for the last Women's World Cup and, obviously, our goal today is to work hard and make it to Australia & New Zealand this time around.”

Training in a temple and Cristiano inspiration

Curiously, Chetthabutr didn’t begin playing football at school or in a local park, but at a place of worship. “There was a pitch located at a temple close to my home,” she explained. “So I went there with my friends to play football after school each day. It was during that time that I really began falling in love with the game.” Despite the humble start, Chetthabutr set lofty goals for herself and drew inspiration from two current Manchester United icons: Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. “Ronaldo is my idol,” she said. “I love and respect his work ethic and dedication to the game. He always keeps himself fit and ready for club and country. “Cavani is another favourite player for me. He has an uncanny knack of scoring goals and, as a forward, you need to have that kind of instinct to win games for your team.”

Chetthabutr made remarkable progress learning from her heroes. At 13, she passed a trial to join a local sporting school, before another trial saw her promoted into the Thailand youth side. Then, at 17, she earned her first call-up to the senior national team. It didn't take her long to showcase her predatory talents, breaking her international duck by scoring against Portugal in a friendly. Then came her first hat-trick against Indonesia, performances which helped cement her place in the national team. “It was a great moment and one which I will cherish in my life,” said Chetthabutr. “It was my first time at the SEA Games, so it was memorable to score a hat-trick.” Chetthabutr watched Thailand's first-ever Women's World Cup at Canada 2015 on television, and although she played in qualifying for France 2019, she failed to make to the final squad for the tournament. Needless to say, she’s now determined to help her country qualify and appear in her first global finals.

“I feel that we have a good chance of qualifying as the quota allocated to Asian teams has increased," she said. “Nonetheless, we have to take it game by game, give our all in each match and see where our hard work takes us. Every team in the final tournament is eyeing a spot at the World Cup, but we will be fully focused and try to make it to the tournament for the third time in succession. “Playing in the Women’s World Cup would, without doubt, help me move to play in a high-level foreign league. I will always try to push and develop myself in order to help Thailand become a powerhouse in women's football.”