On the cusp of once again playing for her country with a first-team professional contract also signed, footballer Mayumi Pacheco admits she is ecstatic with just how well things are progressing.
The 18-year-old left back spent most of last season in the top echelon of women’s football, plying her trade for Doncaster Rovers Belles in FA Women’s Super League 1, on loan from Liverpool.
But while the Belles suffered relegation, Pacheco’s fortunes went in the opposite direction, reaching heights she thought scarcely possible in both domestic and international football.
After an England Under-19 double header against Norway on January 19 and 21 the teenager is looking to cash in on victory in the 2016 International Cup, with the U19 European Championships elite qualifying matches also on the horizon.
“These fixtures against Norway are the starting block for any potential success, so we’re keen to start off on the right foot,” she said.
“With the Euros it’s a really big year for everyone, these are the competitions you want to be doing well in and we’re also looking to qualify for the World Cup – it’s a long journey for us.
“We need to be taking the right steps towards getting there and doing everything in our power to make it a success.
“I’ve played a lot of football recently, done so much on and off the pitch, but it was only when we won the International Cup last year that it really hit me just how important all the work has been.”
Such has been the success of Pacheco’s stint in Yorkshire that she was immediately snapped up by Belles manager Emma Coates on a permanent deal at the end of her loan.
And with a one-off FA WSL Spring Series starting just next month, the former St John Rigby College student believes the sky is the limit after one of the best moments of her young career to date.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, but it’s always been a dream of mine since I was young and I’m very fortunate to have been given that chance with the Belles,” added Pacheco, who benefits from being part of the SSE Next Generation programme.
“We’d finished the season on a high with victory over Reading, and a couple of days later Emma made it clear that I was in her future plans and wanted me to stay.
“From the start I’ve been playing with confidence. As soon as I came into this team I settled in well, so for the manager to have me as her first signing meant so much to me, and to go and be offered a first-team contract after that is really huge.”
* SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen