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Bend it Like Bhuta: Meet the First Indian American in the U.S. Team for FIFA World Cup

Bend it Like Bhuta: Meet the First Indian American in the U.S. Team for FIFA World Cup

  • The 16-year-old daughter of a Mumbai-born and Gujarat-raised father, made the eighth and final goal in the 62nd minute, beating her father’s native country 8-0.

Pennsylvania teen Mia Bhuta made history earlier this week by becoming the first-ever Indian American to play for the U.S. team at any FIFA World Cup. The daughter of an Indian father and an American mother made her debut on Oct. 12 at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup against hosts India. The young player was a star at the game in Bhubaneswar, where she scored “arguably the best goal of the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup,” as reported by ESPN. She made the eighth and final goal in the 62nd minute, beating her father’s native country 8-0. 

After the 16-year-old from Mt. Lebanon scored the winning goal, she told The Hindu that her grandfather is in the hospital, undergoing bypass surgery. “This goal was for him.” She said she was happy to be in her father’s native country. “I think just being here, it’s amazing,” she said. “I’m so glad I can share this journey with my teammates and expose them to our culture. She told the paper that she’s “just so grateful for my Indian heritage. All the people in my life are always supporting me and for all the lessons they’ve taught me.”

After the game, Bhuta received accolades from far and wide. She was “overwhelmed by the response on social media and told Tribe Live that she had to give herself “a time out on her phone screen so she would stop looking.”

Among those who reached out to her was Megan Rapinoe. Reacting to the U.S. soccer greats tweet, Bhuta told ESPN “it was crazy,” as Rapinoe is someone she’s looked up to. “I’ve always looked up to her. She’s an incredible player, so I look up to her for her abilities on the field. But off the field, she just seems like an even better person.”

Along with all the praise and limelight, her family’s presence made the game even more special. “It was incredible,” Bhuta told ESPN. “It was a big moment not only for me but for them. They are one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make it here. They’ve sacrificed so much for me to be here. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. My brother and sister have been my training partners.”

The young Indian American wants to use her platform on the national team to send a message. Despite trouncing India, she has hopes for its female soccer players. “India has so much potential,” she told ESPN after the Oct. 12 game. “There’s so much talent here. The world needs to invest in them more. They need to believe in young girls and give them opportunities to succeed. And I think they can go really far.”

Bhuta graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, a year early, finishing up last June. She will join Stanford this January, where she will be on the women’s soccer team. 

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She developed her love for soccer in her backyard, “learning the basics and playing with her father, Vyom Bhuta, and siblings,” according to a March 2022 profile in Pittsburgh Soccer Now. “I learned a lot about the game when I was very young, and started playing with my dad and my brother,” Bhuta said. “We watched drills on YouTube and tried them on the field.” She “fully embraced the sport” and “began learning advanced technical skills by attending the new Riverhounds Development Academy technical training program while she also began playing competitively with Century United,” the Pittsburgh Soccer Now profile said.

She credits her family not just for being at her best moment and instilling her love for the game, she’s grateful for their support throughout. “I owe a lot of it to the people around me,” Bhuta told Pittsburgh Soccer Now. “My siblings are always there for me whenever I need anything, like my brother driving me to the field or to the gym. I can’t drive yet, so they’re the ones who are driving me two hours each way.” 

Her family helps her “stay balanced” as well, she said. “[They] help me with what I need to get done, but also let me live a normal life, like getting my school work done and being with friends. I owe a big part of who I am to them. They helped me grow as a whole person.”

Although she’ll play at Stanford, she told ESPN she doesn’t want to turn pro yet. “I really do value my education, so that’s kind of what’s up next for me.”

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