"I Want to Win the Title''
Brazilian Delma Goncalves, better known as Pretinha, the first import player to the Korean professional women's football league, or WK-League, wants to win the championship title in the league's inaugural season. / Korea Times
By Kim Jae-won
A small and speedy Brazilian player fires an impressive, strong, left-turning kick that rattles the back of the net during a women's football match at Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province on June 15.
Delma Goncalves, better known as Pretinha, hugs her teammates in celebration of her second goal of the season. Pretinha is a trailblazer in the brand new Korean professional women's football league, or WK-League. The 34-year-old former Brazilian national team member became the league's first import player when she joined the Daekyo Kangaroos in April.
The well-traveled striker came over from Japanese side INAC Leonessa and signed a reported 40-million won ($31,500) one-year contract, the league limit for a one-year salary.
Pretinha said the scenery may be different but her goal remains the same.
"I want to win the title. That is my goal as a football player,'' she told The Korea Times in an interview through an interpreter in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province last week.
"I love football. That is what makes me happy. I appreciate that I can get up every day and play the sport. I will show my passion on the pitch.''
Pretinha has had a great start to her career in Korea, scoring twice and adding two assists in five appearances as of Monday, but she doesn't think much about individual honors.
"I am not interested in becoming an MVP. I want my team to win the league. That is more important to me. I want to score goals and earn assists to achieve it."
With Pretinha on board, the Kangaroos have had a good start, ranking second with 14 points on a record of 4-2-1.
First Woman Import Footballer
The former player in the United States-based Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) says Korea will be a learning experience.
"Korean football is fast, and tough in body contact. I am getting used to it,'' she said. "I came to Korea to learn something about football. Every league has its own strong points. I have learned many things from my time in various leagues.''
The 1.57-meter attacker debuted in 1989 at age 14 with Brazilian club Mendanha FC. Three years later, she moved to Vasco da Gama where she spent eight years, winning several titles. In 2001, she made the move to the United States to join the Washington Freedom of the WUSA, and played with the San Jose CyberRays in 2002 and 2003. Pretinha then moved to Japan in 2005 and played for Leonesse until the end of 2008.
It was just two months ago that Pretinha became a trailblazer in Korean football.
"I feel honored that I am the first woman import footballer in South Korea. I think Korea is good place to play, and people are friendly. The door is open. I hope many other international players come to this country,'' she said. The WK-League kicked off in March and the Kangaroos were the first to sign an import player out. Pretinha said other teams should be looking to add international flavor to their sides.
"International players can help Korean football, and they can learn from this league as well. It is good for both sides to develop.''
Secret for a Long Life as Player
Pretinha attributes her 20-year professional career to three things: self-control, healthy food and rest.
"I am a food lover. I eat almost everything. I love fish, meat, salad, vegetables, potatoes, carrots; chicken is my favorite. However, I do not eat fried foods. That is not good for players. Some Korean food is too hot. I try to eat very little of that.''
Daekyo Sports Division Manager Kim Hwan-rae talked about Pretinha's professionalism.
"When I was with her in Hong Kong to get a work permit, she did not miss any weight training sessions even though she felt so tired. She asked me where the gym was, and trained there by herself.''
Loneliness of an Import Footballer
Pretinha shed tears when asked about her mother, who died recently.
"My mom was proud of me. She always supported me and was on my side. It has been three months as of (June 17) since she died. She gave me power to endure tough times.''
Pretinha grew up in a big family with four other siblings. Her big brother played in the first division of the Brazilian league, but is now retired. Her brother introduced her to football and it changed her life.
"I played with boys until 14. We just kicked the ball in the street. You know, that is Brazilian style,'' she said.
"My dream has come true thanks to football. I can support my family financially, and we bought a house,'' Pretinha said with a smile. "I have some more dreams. But I will not say that now,'' she said.
She said she often misses her family back home in Brazil and feels a bit lonely being so far away.
"From time to time, I miss my family and my country, but I know that I can get through it. Especially, on big days, such as Christmas, New Year's Day and my birthday, I feel homesick,'' she said.
She has now been away from home for eight years.
"I communicate with my family through telephone and the internet," she said. "I cannot help but weeping sometimes.''
|Pretinha With Numbers|
4: The number of times the Brazilian national women's football team striker has played in the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, respectively. Pretinha appeared for Brazil at World Cups in China (1991), Sweden (1995), United States (1999), and again in China two years ago. She also played in the Olympic Games in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), and Beijing last year.
Prentinha also has played professionally in four countries. She debuted in Brazil, moved to the United States and then jumped to Japan before finally coming to South Korea.
20: The number of years Pretinha has played professionally since she debuted in 1989. Her career began with the Brazilian club Mendanha FC when she was 14. Now 34, she still performs at a high level, and has scored two goals and set up two more in five appearances in the WK-League.
157: Pretinha's height in centimeters. She also weighs 52 kilograms. She overcomes her lack of height with speed and technique.