Women's ● Nov 17, 2009
Sengkang Punggol crowned Women’s Champions
The ‘Florence Nightingale’ of local football, Nurhafizah Abu Sujad broadens the reach of her quest to keep footballers in top condition, joining the Lion City Sailors while retaining her role as National Teams Head Physiotherapist.
On October 30, when Singapore Armed Forces were crowned S.League champions for 2009 after their goalless stalemate with Tampines Rovers, another group of winners took to the podium at half time.
The winners and runners-up of the FAS Women’s Football League 2009 and FAS Women’s Youth Football League 2009 were on hand to collect their prizes in front of the 4,377 fans at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The sudden downpour before kick-off did not dampen the mood at the half-time ceremony as the teams turned up in droves with their families and friends to receive their prizes from Guest of Honour, Mr Lim Kia Tong, the Vice President of Football Association of Singapore.
The top 3 teams of the Women’s Youth League were first to receive their prizes with Kaki Bukit SC in third spot while Nanyang Technological University collected their runners up medals. The Championship trophy went to United World College who cruised through the season undefeated by conceding just 4 goals and scoring a massive 59 goals in the process.
Nanyang Technological University were not without consolation however as they also produced the League’s top scorer in Nuriah Bte Mohd Noor who lamented finishing runners up in the league, “It’s the 2nd time I’ve won the award while finishing 2nd in the league. The team worked hard to help me win the award but I think we were really unlucky not to get the top spot.”
Sharing similar sentiments was the Women’s League top scorer, Huraizah Bte Ismail of Middle Rangers, who also had to content with her team finishing runners up. For Huraizah and her teammates, the ceremony was an emotional experience given the recent loss of their long serving coach Bernard Tay and the resulting uncertainty over their team for next season, “I felt surprised and happy for finishing as top scorer. I want to dedicate it to the late Bernard Tay, because if not for him, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.
“Our team will still be around without Bernard and we have resumed training sessions. There are no concrete plans as yet, but for the passion of playing soccer and for our love and respect for Bernard, of course we will do our best to keep the club together.”
This year’s Challenge Cup winners Arion Women’s FC rounded up the top 3 as they sealed their placing on the final day with a nervy 4-4 draw against Police Sports Association FC who took 4th place.
Sengkang Punggol, meanwhile were all smiles as they picked up the Championship trophy in their maiden season. The team, who finished the season unbeaten, had narrowly won the title by a single point on the last day of the season as well after a 2-1 victory over heavy favourites and eventual runners up Middle Rangers FC.
The success came as a surprise to even the players as the team was formed just 1 month before the start of the season. Sengkang’s stand in captain for the day, Nurashidah Rashid who collected the Championship trophy said, “I’m very proud of the team. To win it in our first year is amazing. Most of our players are young and they just started playing but the seniors helped them along.”
Ho Kwang Hock the coach of Sengkang Punggol, and an ex-international who played under Uncle Choo in the 1970s with the likes of Quah Kim Song and Dollah Kassim however felt differently.
“In our first game we beat the Young Women’s team 1-0, and they are a good team. The players were all surprised with the result but I wasn’t. I knew their strength all along. I told the Chairman, Bill Ng, at the start of the season that these girls will win and he should have them under Sengkang Punggol. He was so pleased with the team in the end he matched the $2000 prize money from his own pocket!”
Coach Ho also gave an insight into the team’s success, “These girls can play and technically they are there. I told them very early on that I can’t change their play but what I can do is help them psychologically. In football you must have the right mentality to win and so 70-80% of my coaching was on psychology. It helped that all the girls were willing to work hard and learn to improve and at the end of the day that matters also.”
Sengkang Punggol and national player, Regina Tan agreed with her coach’s view, “Because we only started this year, something that we lacked was chemistry so our playing styles were all different. But I think one of the good things about the team, is that everyone is willing to learn. Everyone wants the best for the team and not for themselves and everyone is willing to go that extra mile and put in that extra effort.”
Sengkang’s run to the championship was made possible by their defensive capabilities. A tight showing at the back meant the team conceded just 5 goals in the course of the season, the best record in the league. Leading the team’s defensive line was club captain and national goalkeeper, Yixi Tan.
She too pointed out the team’s hunger to win as key to their success, “I really think we were very lucky, because the games were all so close and if any shot had been different, it would have been a draw and we could have finished in second place. But I think the hunger to win from the younger players made the difference. I always tell people that we got half a team of 15 year olds! They really have the passion in them.”
She also paid tribute to the off-field personnel who contributed to the team’s success, “I have to thank both Mr Ho, our coach, and Mr Tan, our manager, for taking care of the logistic matters. They were always there for the team. Mr Tan would always make sure we had drinks at trainings and matches. During the fasting period he would have food ready for the players who were fasting so they could break fast on time. If not for them we wouldn’t be celebrating our success today.”
As the season comes to a close, the players will already be gearing up for next year with the league commencing as early as January. With each team looking to strengthen their squad before the season kicks-off, Sengkang Punggol could expect to be given a run for their title next year, even before the celebratory mood would have dissipated.