Saturday 31 October 2020, 21:39

Argentina's Jaimes on Chinese adventures and learning from Cristiane

  • Sole Jaimes scored 14 times in as many games in Chinese Women's Super League

  • Argentina No9 figured in 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup

  • Forward aims to spring a surprise or two at Australia/New Zealand 2023

Sole Jaimes has, in a sense, enjoyed one of her best seasons in the 2020 Chinese Women's Super League. The Argentinian forward struck 14 times in as many games as her side Changchun Zhuoyue successfully maintained their place in the top flight. Her phenomenal scoring tally, which included a six-goal haul in an 8-0 rout of Huaxia Fortune, saw her finish as the second top-scorer of the campaign.

With the player now basking in the glow of recent success, only those following her game closely were aware what she went through. Indeed, during a year in which life has been made extremely difficult due to COVID-19, Jaimes defied the odds in maintaining her performance level.

"It was a big pity that the pandemic took place [early this year] and it has devastated the entire world," the 31-year-old former Santos and Lyon striker told "But the hardship didn't prevent us keeping up with our work. Our team [Changchun] began training from March.

"There was little panic in China. They put things under control as fast as possible. The league competition took a revamped format with all teams training and competing centralised so the players were safe and able to perform to their best."

Living far away from home is part and parcel of life for a globe-trotter like Jaimes, who was quick to admit that she played for the love of family. "My family are all that has made me work so hard and luckily they are all safe and well. Although we are thousands of miles away from each other, I am the happiest woman when I think I am playing for my beloved family."

Sole Jaimes (Middle) competes for the ball

Improving with iconic teammates

Born in Nogoya, Jaimes started playing football at seven-years-old, barefoot in the streets with neighbouring kids, most of whom were boys. "There were no football teams in my hometown and my family couldn't afford to pay for my further development. But when I was 15, I was recruited by Boca Juniors through trial."

After spending the next few years with the capital-based side, she went on to cut her teeth with the likes of River Plate and Foz Cataratas. Then came the turning point of her career when she was signed by Brazilian powerhouse Santos. "This was a milestone for me. It was my first professional contract and from then on I was able to realise my dreams of helping my family," she said.

Jaimes made fast progress with Sereias da Vila in the following years, scoring 21 goals across three seasons, including winning the Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Feminino in 2017. Looking back, she felt indebted to the team's top star Cristiane for influencing her both on and off the pitch.

"She [Cristiane] is my first idol," she commented on Brazil's second top international scorer. "Her talent and skill are known around the world but she also has a great personality. I learned a lot when training together with her."

Jaimes continued her overseas adventure by joining Olympique Lyonnais last year with whom she won the UEFA Women's Champions League in her debut season. It was in Lyon that she met another role model in Norwegian international Ada Hegerberg. "She is a player I admire. She impressed me through her technique when we played together. And off the field she is a good person."

Sole Jaimes (R) competes for the ball

Women's World Cup debut

At the international level, Jaimes figured for her country at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, scoring a goal in a 3-1 loss to France. And a decade on, she struck five times as Argentina finished among the top three in the 2018 Copa America Femenina and thus a play-off against Panama, which ultimately led to qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™.

In what was only their third appearance in the women's game's extravaganza, Jaimes and Co stunned former world champions Japan with a goalless draw in the opener and, despite losing to England 1-0, they came from behind to draw against Scotland in a 3-3 goal-thriller. The results may not have been enough to see them progress beyond the group phase for the first time but the two draws, their first-ever points gained in the Women's World Cup, came as a massive boost to the team.

"It was my first Women's World Cup. I was so happy to represent my country playing on the global stage. We had strong opponents and hard-fought matches. But all these were not important, we proved ourselves through our performances," she said. "After our campaign at France 2019, the women's game has attracted growing attention in my country and we have now a professional women's league."

With her prolific form with both club and country, Jaimes has set her sights on the next Women's World Cup at Australia/New Zealand 2023, aiming to put in much-improved performances.

"Now we have increased financial support in Argentina and we have more chances to train and play together. I believe we can play better [in the next Women's World Cup]. You train hard and play well and God will take care of the rest."

Sole Jaimes of Argentina takes a moment of reflection