“They call me Hope Solo,” said the captain of the women's national football team Noor Kusumawati Bte Mohammad Rosman, who plays in the same position as the American goalkeeping star.
It was perhaps the most effusive praise the 26-year-old could receive, praise which also alluded to the growth of women's football worldwide and locally.
Captain of the Women's National Team Noor Kusumawati Bte Mohammad Rosman in action during a training session. Photo: Sport Singapore
“I do have fans who are kids. They really see me as something; they want to follow my footsteps. They view me as their idol,” Kusumawati said.
While superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are household names worldwide, it bodes well for women's football to know that primary school children are aware of world class female footballers.
From less than 360,000 registered female football players in 1995, the number has grown almost three times to more than 1.2 million female players in 2015.
The total financial resources allocated to women’s football by the 54 national associations within the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) have also increased about threefold in the last five seasons.
Statistics point to an inexorable growth in women's football globally, and Singapore is no exception in this trend.
Three years ago, there were only eight clubs in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Women's Premier League, but it has now grown to 11 clubs.
The women's national team has also expanded following the increasing participation of female footballers.
“We now have four [national] teams instead of one or two ad hoc teams, and they are actively participating now. Previously, they were not actively participating,” said Julie Teo, General Manager of Women's Football and Grassroots at the FAS.
Members of the women's national team in action during a training session. Photo: Sport Singapore
“The senior team has gone to one or two regional competitions at least, and they are going for the next one – the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation). And they have played several friendly matches, compared to none in the last two years.”
While women's football has no doubt experienced significant growth locally, the FAS are still working hard to develop the game within the grassroots.
As part of the Cubs programme that was established last year, football centres have been set up across the island for children below 12 years who do not have the opportunity or space to play football.
The initiative is aimed at both boys and girls, but the FAS was careful to be thoroughly inclusive of girls who want to play the sport with other girls.
“Within our grassroots programmes, we have two all-girl centres in Bowen Secondary and Queensway Secondary,” Teo said.
The growing popularity of the sport among women notwithstanding, the extra attention to growing women's football is a sign of good things to come, and Singapore might one day have our very own Hope Solo that all young girls can look up to.
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