Jacynta Galabadaarachchi – a name to remember, and a player currently taking the Scottish Women’s Premier League by storm with Celtic.
“Everyone always comes up to me like ‘how do you say your name?’ It is very long. But it’s actually quite easy to say – it just looks very intimidating. It’s funny; it doesn’t fit on the back of my shirt,” she told Sky Sports.
The Australian started playing football with her brother, aged 5, and quickly fell in love with the game.
“Since I was nine years old, I said to my parents, ‘I want to play in Europe,'” the 21-year-old said. “That was my goal since I was younger.”
“I was watching all the football games in Europe. It just looked so amazing. I watched a lot of the men’s teams, but still I just always wanted to play there. Especially seeing Messi at Barcelona, I always wanted to play in Spain.”
And at it was at nine years old, she was asked to trial with Manchester United, and when she came to the UK she also spent eight weeks training with Manchester City.
At 15, she signed with Melbourne City and three years later when she was just 18 years old, Galabadaarachchi was scouted by West Ham and moved to London.
“That was a big deal for me. Leaving home and not being with my family anymore was a hard step. But I’m glad that I took it,” she said.
The then-teenager made 11 appearances for the Hammers before signing on loan with Napoli in 2020.
But 2021 was the year Galabadaarachchi finally made herself a longer-term home in Scotland, when she moved to Celtic and soon became one of the most valuable players in the team, winning Celtic’s 2021-22 Player of the Season award.
In a season where Celtic won the Scottish Cup, Galabadaarachchi was a standout player and made her mark on Scottish women’s football.
“The Celtic player of the year was a big deal. But just to see your hard work pay off as well. It was nice to get that award, but I couldn’t have done it without the whole team doing well,” she said.
And that wasn’t the only award she won for the 2021-22 season. Galabadaarachchi made history in 2022 when she won the inaugural Young Player of the Year trophy at the PFA Scotland awards.
“It was amazing. I mean, I was really not expecting it. Even when I got nominated, I never expected to win,” she smiled.
“So when they said my name, the girls were like ‘go, go!’ I just didn’t expect it. But yeah, it was amazing.”
And this year’s campaign has been no different. In the opening game of the 2022-23 Scottish Women’s Premier League season, Galabadaarachchi set the tone by scoring her first hat-trick.
Galabadaarachchi’s mum is Argentinian and Italian, while her dad is Sri Lankan – making her a rare role model for South Asian girls football in the UK.
So where does a mix like that leave her international football career?
Galabadaarachchi has caps for Australia’s U17 and U20 squads, but through her mum’s nationality, could also play for Argentina who are currently ranked 29th in the FIFA world rankings.
But what about those dreams of playing in Spain? With talk of interest from Barcelona and Levante, who knows where she could end up in the future, or even from June 2023 when her contract with Celtic is up?
She wouldn’t say no if Barcelona came knocking.
“Since I was watching Messi play at Barca, it’s been a dream of mine so it would be hard to say no even though I do love Celtic and the fans and the club.
“I think any player would dream to play at a club like that.”