Lionesses to gauge rivals in Myanmar

Defender Siti Rosnani Azman (left) during a friendly match last week. The Lionesses are competing in a tournament in Myanmar and will play Vietnam tomorrow.
Defender Siti Rosnani Azman (left) during a friendly match last week. The Lionesses are competing in a tournament in Myanmar and will play Vietnam tomorrow. PHOTO COURTESY OF FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Singapore's Lionesses are making a comeback in international football at this year's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship in Myanmar - their first major competition since the 2012 edition of the same tournament.

While there are no medal targets for the team, despite them finishing third in last year's Luen Thai Cup in Hong Kong, the eight-team tournament is no less important.

The July 26 to Aug 4 event in Mandalay will give the new-look team and their handlers a chance to assess the Lionesses against their regional counterparts.

The 23-strong squad were formed in February last year, with players hand-picked from various local clubs that competed in the FAS Women's Premier League and Challenge Cup. Besides the Luen Thai Cup, a quadrangular event featuring a club and university side from Hong Kong, they have played friendlies only against Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

"Since the team are fairly new, the AFF Women's Championship is an opportunity to see where we stand in South-east Asia," said Julie Teo, the Football Association of Singapore's general manager for grassroots and women's football.

The AFF tournament comprises seven Asean countries and Australia. Singapore will face Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines in the group stage. They open their campaign against Vietnam tomorrow.

Teo, 53, said: "Singapore are in a tough group with the Asean powerhouses, but we're hoping to close the gap with Thailand and Vietnam.

"It would be good to see how much of a fight the Lionesses can put up against the top Asean teams."

Singapore lost to Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines in the round-robin stage in 2012.

Teo hopes that the tournament will be a learning experience for the players to grow as a team.

"The results don't matter now. But the girls are eager to learn and give their best on the field and I hope this will translate into success for them and for Singapore in the near future," she said.

"We have to start somewhere - women's football is growing rapidly all over the world. If we don't go for it now, we'll be left far behind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Lionesses to gauge rivals in Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe