Parents pitch in for dream team

Above: (From left) Dhaniyah Qasimah Zamri Abdullah, 13, Eba Safieya Ebramshah, 13, and Nur Atikah Ardini Salleh, 14, with Nurhidayu Naszri, 13, in the background, during training on June 11 for the Wawu Cup China International Friendship City Youth Footba
Above: (From left) Dhaniyah Qasimah Zamri Abdullah, 13, Eba Safieya Ebramshah, 13, and Nur Atikah Ardini Salleh, 14, with Nurhidayu Naszri, 13, in the background, during training on June 11 for the Wawu Cup China International Friendship City Youth Football Tournament.PHOTO: EBRAMSHAH HAMEED
The team at the semi-finals on July 6 in Chengdu.
The team at the semi-finals on July 6 in Chengdu.PHOTO: EBRAMSHAH HAMEED

Football club gives girls chance to train and compete overseas

Driven by the conviction that women's football in Singapore deserved more attention, a group of parents came together to give their daughters that chance.

That common goal drove the formation of the Girls Dream Team (GDT) Circuit FC in September 2015 - an activity conducted entirely outside of school.

Though it started with only 12 girls aged 10 to 11, the club has grown exponentially, and now has 70 to 90 players, aged six to 35, on a rotational basis.

Recently, the club was first runner-up in the Wawu Cup China International Friendship City Youth Football Tournament held from July 3 to 7 in China's Sichuan province. Eight teams from seven countries and eight Chinese teams took part.

Mr Zamri Abdullah, chairman of GDT, whose 13-year-old plays in the team, now wants to push the envelope further.

"The female football scene in Asia is exploding. We need to put Singapore out there," the 37-year-old driver said, referring to Japan's and North Korea's Fifa U-17 Women's World Cup victories in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

"I'm not just fighting for my daughter, but for women's rights in this country."

SCORE WHILE IT'S HOT

The female football scene in Asia is exploding. We need  to put Singapore  out there.

MR ZAMRI ABDULLAH, chairman of GDT.

Back in 2015, he wanted his daughter Dhaniyah Qasimah, then 11, to have more opportunities to play football competitively.She had attended two football academies but after picking up the basics there, she wanted a more challenging environment.

So Mr Zamri formed GDT with a few like-minded mums and dads whose daughters were also keen on football.

The parents go beyond just providing moral support. They take on club manager and coach responsibilities - with no remuneration - while holding full-time jobs.

During the recent trip to Sichuan, the nine parents accompanying the team of 14 girls juggled various roles.

For example, Mr Ebramshah Hameed, 41, a personal driver, served as the team's photographer and media liaison, while 38-year-old Madam Junainah Hashim, a customer service officer, did the administrative work, such as submitting the team list and collating the official documents. Both have a daughter each in the team.

But there have been challenges. For instance, the club does not have a fixed training ground as it does not have sufficient financial resources.

The parents have found innovative ways to tackle this problem, such as conducting training on open fields at East Coast Park. But such arrangements are subject to availability and weather conditions.

Despite the obstacles, the girls remain optimistic.

Nurhidayu Naszri, 13, a Secondary 1 student at Bowen Secondary School, said: "Not having a fixed training ground can be a good thing. We are exposed to different kinds of terrain, so we are able to adapt during tournaments."

Dhaniyah, now a Secondary 1 student at Bowen Secondary School, said: "When people generally think about football, they know only men's football because most of the internationally renowned footballers are male.

"The stereotype is that when women play football, they win by luck. They don't know how much hard work we have put in."

A spokesman for Women's Football in Singapore, a volunteer-based group that promotes the sport, said: "Not all boys will become professional players or represent their country one day, but they have been given opportunities every step of the way. We think GDT is doing a great job, giving the girls a chance to chase their dreams."

Mr Zamri's ultimate wish? "We hope our best players can represent Singapore in the national women's team," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Parents pitch in for dream team'. Print Edition | Subscribe