THIS afternoon's Scottish Cup semi-finals at Falkirk Stadium, followed by the PFA Scotland awards in Glasgow, amount to a very special day for three players.

Celtic's Charlie Wellings and Jacynta will play against Hearts in the noon kick off, while Priscila Chinchilla's presence will light up the second semi between Glasgow City and Partick Thistle. The day isn't too shabby either for Rangers' Lizzie Arnot, as her side will move even closer to a first-ever SWPL 1 title if they beat Motherwell at Alliance Park.

These are the four contenders for the inaugural PFA Scotland women's player-of-the-year award. Jacynta and Chinchilla, who are both 20, are also in the frame for the young player honour, along with Aberdeen's Bayley Hutchison and Hearts' Maria Mcaneny

Wellings, with her teenager's goal for Birmingham City in the 2017 FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley, and Arnot, who scored five time against Celtic in the 2018 League Cup final among many other achievements, both have interesting back stories. So does Jacynta, who has a Sri Lankan father as well as being qualified to play for Australia, Argentina and Italy.

There is, however, something especially compelling about Chinchilla's journey. She also has the talent, toughness and attitude to become a big star in the game.

The forward arrived in Glasgow as an 18-year-old in December, 2020. It was not a move she had anticipated, as she told me.

“When my agent said: 'Pri you have the opportunity to go to Scotland,' I asked: 'Where is Scotland?' He told me far away and they speak English.”

The language barrier was a major drawback for Chinchilla, but she said: “I talked to my mum and she told me to go and continue my dreams.”

Those started when the forward was 13 and, despite her age, received an offer to play for a top league team in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose. There was one problem – Chinchilla's family home, which she shared with her mother, two sisters and two brothers, was a three hour journey away.

Before that her experience was as the only girl in boys' teams. Which explains why, despite her small stature, she shares with Erin Cuthbert a physical and mental resilience which allows her to shrug off heavy challenges.

“I told my mum I want to go to the city,” Chinchilla recalled. “She said: 'Pri you are still a baby and you want to go there alone?'

“My mum, who is my biggest supporter, was scared and always called me, but the team promised they would care for me and they did. They gave me an apartment with other girls and I played for the national under-17 team when I was 14.”

If Chinchilla, who scored three goals in Costa Rica's two World Cup qualifiers earlier this month, didn't know where Scotland was, it wasn't any easier for City to get her into the country.

“There was no visa office open in Costa Rica because of the pandemic,” club co-owner Carol Anne Stewart explained. “An immigration officer told me it was impossible but I persevered – it took about a month of my life away!

“I became friendly with a lady in Guatemala. She helped me work round the system and we got a mobile visa van that was going into Costa Rica.”

Arriving in Scotland without any English was daunting, and it was compounded by SWPL football being suspended for four months because of the pandemic. “I was homesick - many times I called my mum crying saying I don't know what I'm doing here,” Chinchilla confessed.

City paid for English lessons and the player is also grateful to her house and team-mate Julia Molin who helped her settle in. “I'm happy here now,” she said, “but some day somebody may want to take me to another league and another country so I can continue seeing the world.”


FRAN Alonso will hope recommending fellow Spaniard Eva Olid to Hearts doesn't rebound on him in today's first semi-final. “She's done a fantastic job,” the Celtic manager said of his opposite number, “and I can see the team just growing and growing.”

A cerebral aspect of a game in which Hearts can't field their two on-loan players from Celtic is the occupations of the two captains. Mariel Kaney is a solicitor and Kelly Clark an accountant.

Neither club has won the Scottish Cup before, while Partick Thistle hadn't even reached the quarter finals before this season. It would be a seismic outcome if they found a way to beat holders Glasgow City in the later game.