Last month, the Singapore Women’s Football team crashed out of the AFF Women’s Championship’s group stages for the second consecutive year. The Lionesses did not garner very favourable results, losing massively in all their three matches.
Speaking to Goal.com Singapore, captain Shida Sheriff Baker said: “I think in general we all had a good experience, a good lesson learnt for the team and also for the officials and FAS [Football Association of Singapore].”
“The main objective was met, and that was to expose the girls. Results wise, it was not so good, but at least the experience is an eye opener, something we can learn from and we can work on in the future.
She also emphasised that this year’s team comprised many young players, saying: “There weren’t so many positive comments about the team. People can make judgment. Yes, it does look really bad to get thrashed, but the public needs to realise that for the majority of the girls, it is their first tournament. A lot of our players are young, ranging from 15 t0 19-years-old.”
National team regular,Angeline Chua, who took a two-year hiatus from football due to work commitments, returned to feature in this year’s AFF Cup and shared similar sentiments.
“Personally, I felt that it was a good experience for me," said Chua.
"It was nice to play a higher standard of football and at an international level. It was really an opportunity to see people who are very passionate about the sport. Also, it was good for the team to gain the international exposure.”
Commenting on the only two goals that Singapore scored in their campaign, Chua added: “It’s a good sign for the team. Previously, we have been playing more defensively. But now, we have strong forwards and we have more chances to attack.”
In general, the perception of ladies playing football has changed over the years. FIFA has been doing its part in developing women’s football globally and the recent Women’s World Cup in 2011 in Germany proved that the development is moving in the right direction.
However, while interest has been growing locally, the growth for the sport, especially in Singapore, is still plagued with many challenges.
One of the main issues that Shida identified was the problem of retaining players.
She said: “A lot of the girls once they get experience and exposure, the moment they start working, they cannot commit to national trainings because of work and family commitments. This is the most critical issue that the team is facing.
“If we don’t retain same players and provide them with more exposure such as training tours and improve, it’s going to just be a vicious cycle.”
Agreeing with her captain, Chua also said that societal expectations and demands made it a challenge to retain players. However, she added that there are players who don’t succumb to the pressure and continue pursuing their passion.
Chua herself had left her previous work engagement to further pursue her true passion. At present, she plays for local team Arion Women’s FC, but she hopes to ply her trade in an overseas league one day.
“Initially, I wanted to try playing in Japan," said the unassuming 22-year-old.
"But the cost of living there is a bit too expensive. So now I’m looking at China and Vietnam instead."
At the end of the day, Shida hopes that the public will continue giving the best of their support to the Lionesses.
“We do have some fans, so I would just like to tell the public to give us your best support," she requested.
"Although the results are not so good, just so they know, we are trying our best on our side to improve.
“If they just give us their best of support, hopefully in the future we can bring back something and make Singapore proud of its women’s football team.”