Burton Albion teenager Jaya Soor will be jetting off to America to take up a football scholarship in the hope of realising her dream of turning professional.

Jaya has spent two years with the Brewers where she says she was surrounded by some of the best coaches in the game.

And the 18-year-old's chance to go to America to fine-tune her game is even more remarkable as she highlights the difficulties she's faced as a Sikh female and a member of the BAME community.

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Jaya grew up with a football-mad uncle in her family, and ended up loving the beautiful game as much as he did.

She said: "Football literally became my life when I was very young.

"If I wasn't in the kitchen getting shouted at for kicking around my football, I was in the garden, pretending I was scoring the world cup winning goal.

"Growing up, trying to find a team locally who would support me or push me in the right direction was more difficult than I thought.

"I ended up starting my football journey in a boys' team where being the only girl you can imagine the challenges I came across."

Burton Albion coach James Billings has been very impressed with Jaya
Burton Albion coach James Billings has been very impressed with Jaya.

As she grew older, Jaya says she "hopped" from secondary school teams to Sunday League teams.

She said: "But I never felt as though I was in the right place or surrounded with the right people who shared my vision and goals.

"Whether it was my family members or teachers at school, I was told to go for another career option, to 'be more realistic' when talking about my dreams or to go for something more attainable."

She also had the additional challenge of being part of the Sikh community, where she says she soon learned quickly "it is far from normal to want to play a sport professionally."

Jaya, of Derby, said it would have been easy to give up on her dream, "but something inside of me that refused to give up or settle for average".

She said: "Instead of breaking me, all these experiences built me up stronger and made me realise all I need is to believe in myself.

"This began to pay off when I was 17, where I had the opportunity to sign with Burton Albion. Here I was surrounded with the best coaches, James Billings, Ben Webster, Matt Waters and Neil Taylor.

"They all pushed me to reach my fullest potential and, I can honestly say, I would not be in the position I am today without any of them."

Then in January this year, Jaya's dreams became a reality when she was offered the scholarship in Mason City, Iowa.

She said: "With the amazing help of my agency, Future Pro USA, and my agent Brad Rodda, all the perseverance and hard work I had put in over the years was rewarded.

"There is a stigma around being a Sikh female in the sporting profession. There is a very small amount of us within the sporting scene, which I believe is due to the stereotypical category we are put under.

"Many of us shy away from our dreams because we are made to believe it is too ambitious or unusual for our generational path. Going back generations, we have always been the labourers, the doctors, the solicitors and even the engineers."

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Jaya says that being female and a member of the BAME community gives her a sense of pride every time she steps onto the pitch.

She said: "I feel as though I am representing all female BAME players who had to sacrifice their dream due to fear or doubters around them.

"It's only because I was lucky enough to be blessed with supportive parents around me who allowed me to follow my chosen passion, whereas many others are not that fortunate.

"This is only the beginning for me, but I hope my journey so far can inspire any young dreamer reading this.

"Do not ever let the colour of your skin, your gender, fear, hate or even your cultural path hold you back and dictate your dreams.

"You can do whatever you want in this life no matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you believe in yourself.

"My ultimate goal is to become a professional footballer, but as of now I'm just focused on performing well in America and seeing how far it can take me."

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Burton Albion coach James Billings thinks Jaya has gone from "strength to strength".

He said: "For two years, Jaya has been a pleasure to coach.

"At first she was very quiet but throughout her journey with us on the Burton Albion football and education programme, Jaya has worked hard on and off the pitch with the dream of gaining a US scholarship.

"Owing to the attributes and growth shown, I selected her to play for our senior women’s side within her first six months with us, since then Jaya gone from strength to strength taking on leading roles within our group as well as taking part in fundraising events organised by the team.

"Not only has she grown as a player but as a person too, facing and standing up to any challenges she may of come up against."

Jaya's parents - Bobby and Harinder Soor - are proud of their daughter and said: "When referees and other parents used to come up to us to compliment Jaya’s performance, as she was growing up, of course it made us feel proud.

"But we thought they were just being polite. But we soon realised that they saw something in her.

"Burton Albion's programme was the turning point.

"Through the support of the college and coaches, her signing up for Burton Albion ladies at age 17, her introduction to Brad Rodda at Future Pro USA agency, she has made us very proud.

"Jaya has, through sheer determination, self-discipline and perseverance showed you should never give up on your dreams."

Councillor Baggy Shanker says that his family and Jaya's family have been friends since their children were young, reports DerbyshireLive.

He said: "Jaya has always had this passion for football.

"It's so exciting to watch her take on the huge challenge of going to the USA to fulfil her dreams and we all wish her success.

"I am positive she will thrive as she has great determination, character, ability and strength. We are all so proud of this very strong girl."