Once dubbed the Madonna of Goan football, Yolanda D’Souza is an absolute legend who very few people know about. She was an integral part of the rise of women’s football in India back in the 70s. Known for her prolific goalscoring, she was also nicknamed ‘the hat-trick queen’.
In what was a career filled with accolades, her biggest moment of glory came in 1976. She became the first woman to score an international hat-trick in a match between India and Swedish club BET held at Lakhimpur. She was also a silver medalist at the 1979 Women’s Asian Cup held in Calicut. Thereafter, Yolanda was voted “Player of the Decade” by the Women’s Football Federation of India in 1980.
She started playing football with her brother Francisco and his friends in their village in Calangute when she was very little. Girls from neighbouring villages used to play inter-village tournaments and that is where she learned the basics of the game. She went on to play in what is dubbed as the ‘Adam vs Eves’ match that took place in Panjim in 1973. Her goal helped the girls trump the boys 3-1 in what was the initiation of women’s football in Goa, and indeed the country.
The nickname ‘hat-trick queen’ was well-deserved too. She scored a hat-trick in each of her debuts, against Candolim Village in a local match in 1975 as well as for India against BET the following year. She was also the star in Goa’s National Football Championship triumph in 1977 which the state hosted. The team scored an incredible 49 goals in the tournament and absolutely pulverised teams from Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and Manipur. In the final, they defeated favourites Bengal 3-0 to lift the trophy.
In the 1979 Nationals, she scored two hat-tricks and repeated the same feat again in 1980. Also adept at playing badminton and hockey, Yolanda is one of those spectacularly gifted athletes that you hear stories about. Except that in her case, most of us didn’t.