“When I was younger I would always be out with a football. I’d spend hours just kicking a ball against a wall and also up in the air and then trapping it.”
By Lynsey Floskins | @TheLovelyLynsey
When the nominations were announced for the FIFA World Goal of the Year last year, I couldn’t believe my ears. Did I really hear the name Stephanie Roche? A female! Not only the first ever female but the first ever Irish person. (And that’s not me being overly PC, no Irish man has been nominated previously for this prestigious award.) Even if you have absolutely zero interest in “the beautiful game”, you have to admit this is a big deal. Could 2015 see the sporting world turned on its head?
I asked the 25-year-old from Dublin where she was when she heard she was nominated. “I’m currently based in Albi in the south of France where I play for ASPTT Albi. (There have been reports in the last few days that she has quit the French club but these still haven’t been confirmed.) I hadn’t a clue about the nomination until my Twitter notifications went mad and I couldn’t believe that I was nominated alongside players like Ibrahimovic (last year’s winner), Van Persie, Diego Costa and Rodriguez. There was a French camera crew with me when I found out that I’d made the final three. Lucky I made it or that could’ve been awkward!”
What changes do you think winning will make? “Well I just hope that even the nomination will help place more focus on the women’s game. It would be amazing to win against such top players. At the time I scored the goal I was an amateur so to even be considered is a dream come true.”
Let’s go back to when you first started playing. “I started playing as a child. I’ve always loved football but where I grew up there was no girls’ teams so I played on a boys’ team. My dad has been a big supporter, he’s there at all my matches and was always there to offer me lifts to training, trials and matches.”
I hate having to ask this but have you encountered sexism at school or at any point during your career? “I’ve been lucky enough not to have too much to be honest. I’ve had some remarks from some people but generally I’ve had support.”
Why do you think ladies football isn’t as popular as men’s and do you think your nomination could possibly change this? “I think ladies football doesn’t get the same funding and media coverage as the men’s game, but things are improving all the time. Hopefully my nomination will help to promote the women’s game and will get more people going to matches.” Here’s hoping!
The key to your goal was your first touch. Were there any particular drills you did to get to that level? “I’ve always practised my touch and technique. When I was younger I would always be out with a football. I’d spend hours just kicking a ball against a wall and also up in the air and then trapping it.”
How far behind other countries do you think Ireland is and is the talent there for us to have a small, professional league? “There’s definitely the talent, I’ve been lucky to play with (and against) some really good players. I think the main problem is funding and publicity. Things have improved so much over the last few years though so I hope in the next few years it will improve even more.”
Who are your heroes and which sports teams do you support? “I’m a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese national and Real Madrid player). In my opinion he has everything. He’s big, strong, skilful, fast and he scores goals for fun! He’s a fantastic player and I look forward to hopefully seeing him at the awards. I’m a big Manchester United supporter and I go to Old Trafford as often as I can. When I not there I’m watching on TV or online! Stephanie also mentioned Aine O’Gorman (Republic of Ireland International). “She’s a fantastic player and athlete and she crossed the ball for my goal!”
If you haven’t seen the goal in question yet, you can watch it (I’m warning you it’s impossible to just watch it once!) on the fifa website. This is also where you can vote for Stephanie’s (or one of the other) goals. Voting is open until 6pm on Jan 12th. www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/ @StephanieRoche9
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