China kicker

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

Saaraa Premji's itinerary for June includes the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Oh yeah, and a whole lot of soccer.

She owes it all to an e-mail.

A year ago, in an effort to make a trip to Dallas for her younger sister's soccer tournament more exciting, Premji fired off a letter to a local team in the hopes they'd take her on as a guest player.

Dallas Inter 88 coach Alex Schindler had a spot for the Calgary teen and it has begun a union that's going to take the 16-year-old John G. Diefenbaker student to China this summer.

"The condition was my marks had to stay up," Premji said. "It's motivated me.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Following quite a few others.

Premji, whose Calgary club is Southwest United, remained in touch with Schindler's squad and even flew down to play with the Texans at the Orange Classic in Florida last December.

Then came the big news. The Inter 88 squad was planning a trip to China for a series of matches and Schindler asked if Premji wanted to join them.

"The biggest thing for me is to play at the highest level and get the most exposure I can," she said.

Talk about exposure: She received a handful of letters from U.S. schools after taking part in the December tourney.

Moreover, she's made a lot of friends.

Schindler said his players have embraced the northerner for a couple of reasons.

One is her personality.

"She just fits in, chemistry-wise, fantastically with our group. Our group has really accepted her," he said.

"There's never an issue about her playing. They miss her and totally love it when she shows up. It even brings an infusion of energy and lifts the team."

Which leads into the other reason. The team has embraced Premji's performance on the field.

"She's very creative and insightful," he said. "She's got a lot of tenacity. What sets her apart is her work rate, she has the ability to get to another gear.

"I've got her in an attacking midfield position and she just tears up other teams.

"Not only that, she has the ability to defend as well. A lot of attacking midfielders don't think that's in their contract but she loves tackling and fighting for the ball.

"She never tires."

Part of that, says Premji, is the desire to earn a scholarship south of the border to pursue her hopes of studying medicine.

The other is she finds the tempo of her Inter 88 teammates to be much quicker than what she's used to.

"I'm really working hard to get in shape to play at that level," she explained.

The tour, beginning June 11, includes five matches, all in Beijing.

One will be against the development squad for one of China's top women's pro team, while another, which will be televised in the Asian country, will be against the National U-17 squad.

The third will pit them against a top club team, followed by a meeting with a selection of rural-based players.

Its concludes with another televised match against a variety of Asian movie stars to serve as a fundraiser.

Of course, there'll be sightseeing.

"It'll also be a great cultural experience," Premji said.

"We're going to see the Great Wall and have a couple of traditional Chinese dinners.

"It'll be so exciting to go see what it's like there."


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