Goal of the Year finalist tells TNP says she deserves to win Fifa award
TNP GRAPHICS: TEOH YI CHIE
She has already created history by being the first female footballer to be shortlisted in the top three of the Fifa Goal of the Year award, ousting the likes of former winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic and other illuminaries such as Diego Costa and Tim Cahill.
And Ireland striker Stephanie Roche reckons she can go all the way and beat Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez to win the Puskas Award at Fifa's Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich on Jan 12.
The 25-year-old Dubliner has captured the imagination of the footballing world with her wonder goal scored for her former club Peamount United against Wexford Youths on Oct 20 last year.
Collecting a cross from her teammate, Roche first controlled the ball with her right foot on the edge of the penalty box, flicked it over her marker with her left foot, before spinning in the other direction and firing an unstoppable volley into the top corner.
She told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "I think all the top-three goals are very good and deserve to be there, but I think mine is technically better.
"Van Persie's is a fantastic header and unusual to the rest of the goals in its own way.
"Mine and James Rodriguez's are quite alike in the technique that's used with the volley, but there are more touches in mine, so I think mine's better!"
While she would be over the moon to receive the award ahead of renowned world-class footballers, Roche wants to win based on merit and not her gender.
"All week, I've been saying, 'Don't just vote for me because I'm a girl'. Vote for my goal if you think it's good enough. Van Persie and Rodriguez scored two brilliant goals," she said.
Roche's father, Fergus, told the Irish Independent of his "little girl" kicking a ball at every opportunity.
There's also the family story of the leggy lass, looking gorgeous in a short skirt and high heels at her brother's wedding, before getting lost in a spontaneous moment of keepy-uppy with balloons freed from their moorings, elegantly flicking, kicking and twirling.
Her former coach Tony Pouch said: "The best way to coach Stephanie was not to coach her at all. She could make the ball talk. Stephanie has been scoring wonder goals ever since she was a small girl."
Besides her wonder strike that has inspired fellow professionals and many aspiring footballers, Roche is trailblazing in other ways after sealing a move to French club ASPTT Albi, based in southern France, in June.
She added: "It can be tough at times. I do get lonely and it can be very boring alone in the apartment, but I prepared for that before I came over.
"I'm working on my French as very few people speak English here, but I've always wanted to be a professional footballer since I was a little girl. This was my dream.
"I've always loved football from an early age. My brothers both played and my dad was always involved in football, so that helped, but I genuinely just loved football.
"I was always out with my friends playing, competing against the lads and, if there was nobody else around, I'd be out on my own kicking the ball against a wall or something.
"I always practised my technique, even if it was something as simple as kick-ups or passing the ball against a wall with both feet."
All the hard work has paid off handsomely for the beautiful Roche with the Goal of the Year nomination, as superstars endorsed her superb shot and global media clamoured for a piece of her.
"I've yet to go back to Ireland since the nomination, but I have been recognised quite a lot here in Albi," said Roche, who has 28 caps and four goals for her country.
"I have a lot more Twitter followers too - it's almost 10,000 now, so that's thousands more.
"It's great for me personally to be named among such superstars of world football. But, as you said, I have played and competed against lads since I was young and it's something that doesn't overwhelm me too much."
And it seems that the fame has not gotten to the down-to-earth lady who still goes back to her native Shankill team to help out with the younger kids, according to her first coach Brendan Yates.
Roche said: "I would say to any girl out there that they should just enjoy playing football for as long as they can. I love football and I'm lucky to play football for a living.
"Women's football is on the rise and I've no doubt it will continue to grow over the next few years."
- Football fans can vote for their pick at http://www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/
"All week, I’ve been saying, ‘Don’t just vote for me because I’m a girl’. Vote for my goal if you think it’s good enough."
- Goal of the Year nominee Stephanie Roche
WHAT OTHERS SAY OF ROCHE’S GOAL
It’s beautiful, magnificent, pity there wasn’t more of an atmosphere to celebrate it a bit more. I don’t know if she’s going to win the prize, we’ll see. But her goal is very beautiful. If it had been (scored) in a Champions League final or in a match with 100,000 spectators, it would have caused a sensation.
— PSG coach Laurent Blanc
Sorry lads, Goal of the Season was scored by an Irish girl.
— Former England striker Gary Lineker on Twitter
No skill in women’s football?... what a finish!
— Former Southampton striker Matthew le Tissier on Twitter
You made all the world happy with your marvellous goal and I am cheering for you cause you deserve a lot.
— PSG and Brazil defender David Luiz
Roche in awe of Fabian's goal
She knows a great goal when she sees one. After all, she's done it herself.
Fifa Goal of the Year finalist Stephanie Roche has given her endorsement to Singapore's very own Fabian Kwok, the Geylang International midfielder who thumped in a cracker from near the halfway line straight off the Albirex Niigata goalkeeper's clearance in an S.League match in May.
His effort won plaudits from around the world, and was featured on popular football websites such as Bleacher Report, 101 Great Goals, as well as on British tabloid Mirror Online.
Kwok (below) won the S.League Goal of the Year award, but the 25-year-old was not nominated for the Puskas award.
Roche told The New Paper that she thought Kwok's goal would not be out of place in the top 10.
The 25-year-old Dubliner said: "It's a very good goal, actually very similar to Dejan Stankovic's goal against Schalke in the Champions League in 2011 (the goal made it to the top 10 for the Puskas award that year).
"He (Kwok) has done well to control the ball and keep it down with one touch. Great goal."