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Ma: I'll Do Better Than Rooney
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With precocious skills, dynamic personality and raw strength, it's little surprise fans are comparing China's top female footballer Ma Xiaoxu to Wayne Rooney.

But this is not something Ma, Asian Women's Player of the Year and Youth Player of the Year, is happy to hear.

"I know lots of people would like to compare me to Rooney. I do not like the comparison," she said after China's opening game.

The team thrashed Thailand 7-0, but Ma, who was feeling unwell, played just 20 minutes and failed to capitalize on a host of chances.

"I know I have a strong personality, but I'm not as explosive as Rooney."

Ma believes she'll do a better job than Rooney at her World Cup debut next year in China. The Manchester United and England striker was sent off in his team's 2006 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal.

"At next year's World Cup in China, I believe as a debutant I will play better than him. I also believe China will get better results than England."

"I like to stick to my own principles. But it does not mean I am unable to control myself on the field."

The teenager has been recognized as China's biggest football discovery in recent years.

One day before the victory, Ma beat four male counterparts to win two of Asian football's top honours.

She became the first female footballer in the history of the AFC awards to win the AFC Youth Player of the Year award, upsetting the all-male contingent of Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov of Tajikistan, Kim Kum-il of Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Yasuhito Morishima and Yoichiro Kakitani of Japan.

But when she is not winning awards, Ma has frequently made headlines for the wrong reasons.

In the January's four-nation tournament in Guangzhou, she was reportedly harshly criticized by a chief official of the China Football Association due to her "undisciplined" behaviour, and was later fined by the head coach after a refusal to put on long socks.

In April's FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship, Ma's defiant attitude against the team's management almost led to dismissal from the team.

After the championship Ma was again in the spotlight, when asked her club to offer her a new and improved contract.

"People said I was rebellious. I know I've made some mistakes. But I don't think to be rebellious is wrong. Everyone should have personality, as long as you show it at the right time and the right place.

"I am a football player. I want to show my personality on the pitch, score goals and win matches."

Ma has been a "rebel" since childhood, playing football with other boys on the street and defying her mother's request to study hard.

Her determination has gradually paid off, helping her to win numerous titles at different levels of national competition.

"Now, my parents are also football fans," said Ma.

Apart from the two AFC honours, she also bagged the MVP and Golden Boot awards in the U-20 Women's World Championship in Moscow.

Recognition from AFC before the Asian Games gave a boost to Ma and also the Chinese women's team, who are aiming to win back the title after finishing second behind DPRK Korea at the 2002 Busan Games. China had won three consecutive women's football titles starting at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

"The Asian Games is an important event and also the last one this year. I hope to add the Asian Games title to my collection."

But she has a bigger goal than Asian Games trophy - the World Cup next year and the 2008 Beijing Olympic.

China will face an uphill battle to win the World Cup, but Ma hopes she can win the most prestigious personal honour in the women's field - FIFA Women's Player of the Year.

"I hope one day I can stand on the podium of the presentation ceremony as the world's best female player. I will work hard and fight for it."

(China Daily December 2, 2006)

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