National Team - Lionesses ● Sep 03, 2021

Lioness Rosnani to go pro in Japan’s new Women Empowerment League with INAC Kobe Leonessa


Siti Rosnani Azman in action during the 2019 AFF Women’s Championship (Photo: FA Thailand)


SINGAPORE, 3 SEPTEMBER 2021 – Singapore international Siti Rosnani Azman is set to make history by becoming the first local to play in Japan’s first-ever professional women’s league.


The defender, 24, has signed a one-season contract with International Athletic Club (INAC) Kobe Leonessa to play in the new Women Empowerment (WE) League, which will commence on 12 September.


Rosnani, who was “shocked” to receive INAC Kobe’s offer in July, told, “I am very honoured and thankful for this rare opportunity to train and compete in Japan. I believe this experience will push me outside of my comfort zone to grow as both a player and an individual.”


Women’s National Team Head Coach Stephen Ng is proud of her groundbreaking achievement. He said, “Although I haven’t had the chance to work with her since my appointment, I have seen her play and know that she is a key, reliable defender for the Lionesses. It is a great feat for Rosnani to play in Japan and I am thrilled to see her efforts recognised. She has always been a leader and an ambassador of women’s football in Singapore. On the pitch, she commands; off the pitch, she inspires. I hope that this will boost and spark hope for the Lionesses and that in time, more players will follow suit. I cannot wait to see Rosnani excel in the league and wish her the best as she reaches new targets.”


Her signing was completed with the help of the Football Association of Singapore as well as Albirex Niigata Singapore’s Mr Shu Namba and Ms Suzanna Foo, who connected her with the director of INAC Kobe.


The formation of the WE League was announced by the Japan Football Association in June 2020 in an extensive move to develop women’s football. Eleven clubs will feature in the inaugural season and there will be no relegation for the first several years. The league also requires that women comprise half of each club’s staff and officials.




INAC Kobe was previously part of the Nadeshiko League Division 1, which is now the second tier of women’s football competition in Japan. They won the league three times in a row from 2011 to 2013 and finished last season as runners-up. The likes of Japan stars Mana Iwabuchi (Arsenal FC) and South Korean internationals Ji So-yun (Chelsea FC) and Cho So-Hyun (Tottenham Hotspurs FC) have turned out for the club in the past and all three now play in England’s FA Women’s Super League.



In making the move to INAC Kobe, Rosnani will be able to train alongside Nadeshiko Japan internationals Ayaka Yamashita, Emi Nakajima, Hina Sugita, Yuka Momiki and Mina Tanaka, who were part of the Japan squad at the recent Tokyo Olympics.


Rosnani also becomes the second Lioness to play for a professional club after Lim Shiya, who turned out for Australian side Perth Glory in the W-League in the 2008/09 season. She follows the footsteps of team-mate Ernie Sulastri, who played for Bunnys Kyoto (2013) and Speranza Osaka-Takatsuki FC (2014) in the Nadeshiko Challenge League.


Rosnani flew to Kobe direct from Australia on 15 August and completed a two-week quarantine, where she attended daily Japanese language classes on Zoom with the other new international signings of the team. She also brought along work-out equipment to maintain her fitness in the hotel room.


In Australia, she made 31 appearances for Southwest Queensland Thunder FC (photo below) in the semi-pro National Premier League of Queensland after joining them last year. Rosnani shared that she was inspired to move to Australia and play full time under the work-holiday visa scheme by fellow Lioness Priscilla Tan, who plays in the same league for Virginia United.


Photo credit: Annette Andrews


Hard work pays off


A stoic character, Rosnani has proven that big sacrifices are part of the package in becoming a professional. “I have been playing football for most of my life, but I wanted to switch it from being a passion to a career,” she said. “I had to adopt a professional mindset and lifestyle even before I had gotten a contract. Moving to Australia was a great step forward. It meant being away from family, taking care of myself and even having to get my hands dirty in cattle farms and pick banana fruits to extend my stay to play. But that is how serious I am about football and how dedicated I am to improve.


“I’m excited to gain experience in Japan where the standard of football keeps growing. It still feels like a dream, but I know that it will not be easy. I am ready and want to challenge myself to see how far I can go. I hope that this will inspire girls back home and instill the belief that being a professional female footballer is indeed possible.”


Rosnani’s love for football started after she discovered the sport at 11 years old. She went on to play at Woodlands Secondary School and Republic Polytechnic, whilst also competing for Police Sports Association in the domestic leagues. Rosnani was called up to the national team in 2012 and has since made 28 appearances, and is a regular in the team at centre-back. She was awarded the FAS Player of the Year (WPL) Award in 2017, where she was the youngest player to be nominated, and has captained the Lionesses.


The FAS congratulates Rosnani on her historic achievement and wishes her all the best in Japan!


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