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To have a famous sibling can often be a mixed blessing. Taneekarn Dangda, however, says being the younger sister of arguably Thailand’s most famous footballer is an “inspiration”.
Older brother Teerasil Dangda has long been the national team’s most potent goalscorer, earning recognition across south-east Asian by top-scoring at the prestigious AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012. More recently Teerasil became the first Thai player to feature in Span’s La Liga with the 26-year-old turning out for Almeria. It’s heady stuff for a nation where genuine locally produced superstars are thin on the ground.
But now sister Taneekarn, four years younger than her celebrated sibling, has her own chance to put her name in lights. In fact, Taneekarn, who is also a striker, will have one over her brother when she features for Thailand at next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada.
The name Dangda will again be front and centre in a milestone moment for Thai football. Thailand will become the first south-east Asian nation to take the field at a Women’s World Cup when they debut against Norway in Ottawa on 7 June, before further group outings against Côte d'Ivoire and two-time champions Germany.
A rare football family *
For Taneekarn the journey to Canada began nearly two decades ago with her older brother and father, who played for prominent local club Royal Thai Air Force FC, providing perfect early age tuition with the round ball. “We practised together when we were children,” Taneekarn told *FIFA.com of her start in football alongside her brother. “Our first coach was our dad, and our first experiences of football were together.
“I have learned a lot of things from my brother. Nowadays I still look to how he plays because I can improve myself by seeing how he plays since we are in the same position.”
“It is not only me that he can inspire. My brother is an idol for many kids. He is one of the reasons why I became a football player. I want to be like him both as a footballer and a person. He is such a good example for me.”
*War Elephants preparing for battle
*Thailand have been slowly building in women’s football for well over a decade now. They are regulars in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in a competition dominated by East Asian nations and, more recently, Australia. Last year, however, they achieved what they hope will be a watershed moment by qualifying for the Women’s World Cup with a dramatic win over hosts Vietnam amid a red-hot atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City.
Now they face a significant challenge at Canada 2015 against some highly pedigreed opposition in Group B. “Our preparation for the Women’s World Cup is going well,” says Taneekarn. “But we have to admit that it is very hard to play at this level since we are a newcomer and new to this tournament. (Our strengths are) we work hard and have good teamwork.
“We know we are underdogs in this group, so therefore we have nothing to lose. Since we are representing Thailand, our target is qualify to the next round but if we cannot be first or second in the group, we will do our best to be one of the third-best teams which qualify for the next round.”
Unlike many of her team-mates, Taneekarn, or ‘Mai’ as she is nicknamed, has recently had a rare opportunity to play abroad. Pitsamai Sornsai, Kanjana Sungngoen and national team captain Naphat Seesraum all turned out in Japan’s Nadeshiko League a few years back, while Taneekarn and Thanatta Chawong last year donned the colours of Swedish lower league outfit Ostersunds.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to play aboard. I believe that every player in Thailand would want to play in Europe, and doing so proved very challenging for me. I gained a new experience in Sweden, not only in football but also how to live.”
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