Football: Stephanie Roche is challenging World Cup stars for goal of the year

Irish forward Stephanie Roche in the locker room of her French club Albi on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Irish forward Stephanie Roche in the locker room of her French club Albi on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

ALBI, France (AFP) - There was hardly anyone in the tiny Peamount United stadium to see Stephanie Roche score the spectacular goal that now sees her challenging James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robin van Persie for the Goal of the Year award.

The 25-year-old blonde centrepiece of Ireland's women's attack still cannot believe the strike and the fuss it has caused.

The 800 euro (S$1,300) a month professional with Albi in the French women's league is now dreaming of maybe meeting US$80 million a year Cristiano Ronaldo at the award ceremony.

"It has just been crazy," Roche said in an interview with AFP at her new club in southern France on Wednesday.

The goal has been viewed on the internet millions of times. That could help her beat the big name World Cup stars to the Puskas Award when it is announced on January 12.

Previous winners of the prestigious honour include Ronaldo, Brazil star Neymar, and, last year, Paris Saint-Germain's Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Roche legend has been growing since October 20 last year when Peamount United played Wexford Youths in the Dublin suburbs - far from the packed stadiums that Rodriguez and the like made their mark.

The two sides, coaches and substitutes were the main witnesses when a cross came from the right, Roche flicked the ball up with the right foot, then the left, turned and blasted the ball in from 25m.

"It happened so fast it was probably just instinct," said Roche, who now is repeatedly asked to recreate the strike for television crews.

"It was my first goal of the season so I was just happy to score," she added.

But after the game the Wexford Youths manager came up and showed Roche a film of the goal on his laptop.

"And I thought that was quite special.

"My teammates actually joked and said I should put it online. 'It's going to be viral, you will be a superstar!'" In the end her coach put the film online.

Football fans now have until December 1 to vote on Fifa's website for the best of the 10 goals nominated - including van Persie's diving header for the Netherlands at the World Cup and Rodriguez's volleyed goal for Colombia against Uruguay.

The top three will be put to a new online vote.

"It's just a great honour to be named among those players and be the only woman as well," said Roche.

"I'm happy and I'm hoping maybe people will vote and I'll get to the awards. The dream will come true." Roche, who learned her football playing against boys in the streets of Dublin, moved this year to ASPTT Albi, newly promoted to the French women's first division.

She says she wants to meet Ronaldo at the awards ceremony. Roche's goal is also bringing new attention for women's football, just ahead of its own World Cup in Canada next June.

"The film has been seen a lot and now people are saying that a girl can do as well as a boy. Maybe now they will be more interested in women's football," said Kimberley Cazeau, Albi's attacking midfielder.

Roche is one of four professionals at Albi. She earns about 800 euros a month and gets a small apartment - far from the riches of the male players.

The competition for the Puskas Award is tough as well.

Albi coach David Welferinger believes Roche could be penalised "because it is just a little amateur film when the World Cup goals are all high definition.

"But at the same time, she is a woman, it is just a little club and that could cause some buzz on the internet and help her. Maybe people want a change," the coach said.

Puskas Award nominees

1) Tim Cahill (AUS), Australia-Netherlands, 2014 World Cup (June 18, 2014)

2) Diego Costa (ESP), Atletico Madrid-Getafe, La Liga (Nov 23, 2013)

3) Marco Fabian (MEX), Cruz Azul-Puebla, Mexican championship (Feb 15, 2014)

4) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE), Paris Saint-Germain-Bastia, Ligue 1 (Oct 19, 2013)

5) Pajtim Kasami (SUI), Crystal Palace-Fulham, English Premier League (Oct 21, 2013)

6) Stephanie Roche (IRL), Peamount United-Wexford Youths, Irish women's championship (Oct 20, 2013)

7) James Rodriguez (COL), Colombia-Uruguay, 2014 World Cup (June 28, 2014)

8) Camilo Sanvezzo (BRA), Vancouver Whitecaps-Portland Timbers, Major League Soccer (Oct 6, 2013)

9) Hisato Sato (JPN), Sanfrecce Hiroshima-Kawasaki Frontale, Japanese J-League (March 8, 2014)

10) Robin van Persie (NED), Spain-Netherlands, 2014 World Cup (June 13, 2014)

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