Football: Lioness Siti Rosnani relishes fresh start with Japanese third-tier league club

Singapore defender Siti Rosnani Azman has joined third-tier Kibi International University Charme on loan in search of more playing time. PHOTO: INAC KOBE

SINGAPORE - After a tough start to her professional career in Japan, national footballer Siti Rosnani Azman is looking forward to a fresh start with her new club Kibi International University (KIU) Charme.

Rosnani, 24, joined International Athletic Club (INAC) Kobe Leonessa - who play in Japan's top-tier Women Empowerment (WE) League - on a one-year contract last September to become only the second Lioness to play football professionally.

But she struggled to adapt to the level of play and did not feature for the club, with the language barrier also making things more challenging both on and off the pitch.

Her woes were compounded by an injury suffered last year. In a bid to try and bridge the gap with her teammates - who include Tokyo Olympic players Ayaka Yamashita, Emi Nakajima, Hina Sugita, Yuka Momiki and Mina Tanaka - she put in extra training sessions and tore her left gluteus maximus muscle, which kept her out of action for a few weeks.

Despite a challenging few months, Rosnani is determined to make the most of her time in Japan.

She said: "I felt very alone. During that period, I tried to discover more about myself, see how far I can go and do things on my own. I bought a camera to take photos and fill my time with it and try to think positively no matter how bad it got.

"There were times when I struggled and didn't really know what was going on but at the end of the day, this is my goal and I chose this path.

"The worst was when I got injured... it's a bit tough and challenging, but I'm glad I'm given this opportunity to play in Kibi and start everything fresh."

Towards the end of last year, the defender requested a loan move away from INAC Kobe in search of playing opportunities, which her club manager and coach agreed to.

Her trial with KIU Charme, who were looking for a centre-back, in December went well and she decided to make the move from Kobe to Takahashi in the Okayama prefecture.

Rosnani, who will be on loan at KIU Charme till June, hopes to get more opportunities to play when the Nadeshiko League Division 2, Japan's third-tier competition, kicks off in March.

She will continue to work on her command of Japanese so that she can communicate better with her teammates, who are university students and semi-professional players.

She said: "I realise that in whatever you play in Japan, the intensity is still there, everyone is good.

"And to get a taste of the Japanese league here because I didn't get that at INAC. I hope I can learn as much as I can when the league starts, do my best in training, just work hard from there and hope I can do something for the team."

Siti Rosnani Azman juggling the ball during training at Japanese top-tier team International Athletic Club Kobe Leonessa last September. PHOTO: INAC KOBE

In her first week of training with the club, Rosnani has already faced new challenges as she tries to adapt to a new environment and experiences such as training in sub-zero temperatures for the first time.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, training is carried out in batches of eight to nine players and each session is limited to an hour.

But she is relishing this new stint at KIU Charme, saying: "I'm always open to a new challenge. I'm growing as an individual and it's good that I'm taking this step because I feel like I was a little overwhelmed in Kobe with the injuries and the language, so it's good to step back a bit.

"I'm really excited because it's a new team, new coaches and a new style of play. It's overwhelming, but I'll give myself one or two weeks to adapt to everything."

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