Feature

Girls with kick

Four NTU students form the spine of the Singapore national football team. Derek Rodriguez meets these powerpuff girls to find out how they tackle problems on and off the field


FROM LEFT:
CHRIS YIP-AU MATERIALS SCIENCE, YEAR 3
SURIA PRIYA, BEATRICE TAN AND PRISCILLA TAN SPORT SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT, YEAR 4
When did you start playing football?

Beatrice: I started playing street soccer with my guy friends in secondary school. At St Andrew’s Junior College, I joined the girls’ football team and started playing competitively.

Chris: In secondary school, I wanted to join basketball or track and field, but they weren’t available so I chose football.

Priscilla: I started playing with the guys in primary school so that’s probably why I have an aggressive edge to my game.

Suria: As kids, my dad used to bring my brother and me to his matches. As we grew older, we went into “void deck football”.

How do people react when they find out you’re a footballer?

Beatrice: Initially, some would tell me it’s “unruly”. But people’s perception of women’s football has been changing. Now, I hear responses like “Wow, that’s cool!”, alongside the occasional “Girls shouldn’t be playing football!”.

Priscilla: Many people don’t know about the state of women’s football in Singapore, so the stereotype that it’s a game for guys still exists.

What’s the difference in styles between men and women in soccer?

Beatrice: Guys tend to do more fanciful tricks and are more individualistic. They also take shots more often, even when the angle is against them. Girls, on the other hand, tend to shy away from shooting.

Chris: Guys rely more on their physical attributes. Girls usually prefer to work together as a team, keeping possession and playing 1-2s to move forward.

Priscilla: When guys pit themselves against girls, their egos get the better of them sometimes. I’ve seen many who like to showboat and many who go all out to win, even if it’s just a friendly.

What’s your best football memory?

Priscilla: My first and only goal for the national team. It was in Bangkok in 2013. I managed to get on the end of a cross from Chris to score. I’m hoping to add more to my tally!

Beatrice: I made two saves in the penalty shootout in the “A” division semi-finals, which took us to the finals. That said, football is a team sport.

Chris: The “A” division finals in 2011 where I scored two goals. The first was from a free kick near the halfway line – that’s probably the furthest I’ve scored from. The second was when I dribbled past the entire defence to score.

Suria: When I was playing for St Andrew’s JC, I scored two goals in the last five minutes to turn the match around.

Using football as an analogy, describe your NTU life.

Priscilla: One thing I’ve learnt from football is to never give up. The ball is round and anything can happen. University life seemed really daunting at the beginning, and there were difficult times, but I kept going. Knowing I’m about to graduate after four years, with the completion of my final-year project, gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Which teams and players are you a fan of?

Suria: I’m an Arsenal fan. I think Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp are two of the greatest players to have competed in the Premiership.

Chris: I love Tobin Heath from the US women’s national team. She’s so calm in possession and very clinical with her finishing. Another player is Veronica Perez from Mexico whom I played against in a match in Canberra. She has fantastic vision.

Beatrice: I like Manuel Neuer, the “sweeper-keeper”. He plays a more active role compared to other keepers and his decision-making is first rate.

Priscilla: Manchester United, though they aren’t doing as well in the post-Ferguson era. I’m been following them with my dad since I was a kid. My favourite player is Paul Scholes. He’s a smart player and an awesome technician. As a centre-back, I take inspiration from Nemanja Vidic. Chicharito is a striker that I like as well. It’s a pity he’s no longer at United.

Euro 2016 is kicking off soon. Which team are you rooting for?

Chris: I’ll be supporting Germany. They have Manuel Neuer and the midfield maestro, Mesut Özil. Spain is the team to watch though. They have a very good squad, not least Andres Iniesta. He’s a magician with the ball.

Suria: Definitely Germany. They play good football and have strong team spirit.

Priscilla: I’m hoping Germany will win too. They’ve suffered a dip in form after the last World Cup but they still have a great pool of players. Belgium is in the mix as well with players like Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Courtois. It will be interesting to see how England fares too, with in-form players like Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

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PHOTOS: MARK TEO
The Singapore women’s national team will be in Myanmar from 24 July to 5 August to compete in the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Women’s Championship. Keep updated on their progress at the FAS Women’s Football Facebook page.