Uefa expert sees good prospects for Lionesses

Uefa technical expert Hesterine de Reus expects women's football to catch up fast with South-east Asian leaders if there are more competitions and grassroots and training programmes.
Uefa technical expert Hesterine de Reus expects women's football to catch up fast with South-east Asian leaders if there are more competitions and grassroots and training programmes.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Team TPSS Titanides (in red) playing against Team Bullet Girls in a five-a-side tournament during Women's Football Day in February. About 550 women and girls took part in the event.
Team TPSS Titanides (in red) playing against Team Bullet Girls in a five-a-side tournament during Women's Football Day in February. About 550 women and girls took part in the event.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Furious action during a tournament for girls at the Women's Football Day in February.
Furious action during a tournament for girls at the Women's Football Day in February.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

They languished in the international wilderness for years, dropping off the Fifa women's football world rankings for two years owing to not taking part in competitions.

Yet women's football in Singapore has been making strides in recent years, and according to Uefa technical expert Hesterine de Reus, greater things could be in store if the efforts continue.

With the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head of women's football development Bai Lili, de Reus was in town for a follow-up visit as part of AFC's Women's Assistance Programme, which the Republic joined in 2014.

The former head coach of the Australia and Jordan national women's football teams told The Straits Times: "If they (Singapore) can take part in more competitions, and keep up with the grassroots and training programmes, I think they can become very competitive in a very short time."

 
 
 

Aside from reaching 103rd in the rankings on March 31, the Lionesses will also be competing in July's Asean Football Federation Championship in Myanmar, and the AFC Asian Cup qualifier next April.

The age-group sides have also fared well in international events, with the Under-14 teams producing encouraging displays in recent programmes in Japan and Hong Kong.

De Reus, 54, who is also a Fifa instructor, believes it will take eight years for the Republic to break into the established trio of Myanmar (ranked 44th), Vietnam (35th) and Thailand (32nd), South-east Asia's leading teams.

But she highlighted that the common mindset of girls not playing football has to change for further improvement.

The former Dutch national player said: "It should be normal for parents to think: I have a daughter and she can play football, instead of learning ballet or netball."

She also pointed out the smaller pool of talent in the Republic, with 3,000 registered female players compared to powerhouses Australia (fifth) and China (12th) who have 130,000 and 430,000 respectively.

However, de Reus, who will be back in Singapore in June to conduct a women's coaching course, said the signs are positive: "If you look at history, it's always the players themselves who develop their own sport, they know the challenges best.

"There is a good group of former players in place - those who took up coaching and are passionate to develop the next generation. It's promising times for Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Uefa expert sees good prospects for Lionesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe