Best Sportsgirl gong for football to Lioness Irsalina

Just two months after lifting the National B Division girls' football trophy with Queensway Secondary School in April, Irsalina Irwan was back at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

But this time, the 15-year-old left-back was making her national team debut with the Lionesses in a friendly against Hong Kong.

Her performances in the Women's Premier League (WPL) with Albirex Niigata were enough to impress Singapore head coach Stephen Ng and earn the teenager a call-up.

On her international debut, she said: "It was a totally different feeling... because when I played for the national team, there was a huge crowd compared to the B division.

"It felt surreal as I stepped on the field, hearing my parents and friends shouting my name. It gave me a boost of confidence."

Her achievements also saw her named Best Sportsgirl for football at the 52nd Singapore Schools Sports Council (SSSC) Colours Award at CHIJ St Theresa's Convent on Friday.

With all sports competitions returning to the National School Games (NSG) this year, a total of 8,647 student athletes across 28 sports received recognition for their achievements and display of good character.

Receiving the award came as a surprise to Irsalina, who is also her school's vice-captain.

She said: "I'm quite shocked that I got the award. I didn't quite expect it - I'm really thankful... because I saw better players."

While she admitted she has had to adapt to the different levels of play in the WPL and the national team, Irsalina has enjoyed the challenge of competing against more experienced players.

To improve her reading of the game, she analyses videos of her matches and watches players in the Premier League.

Another student-athlete who was recognised for his accomplishments on Friday was national sailor Russell Yom. He was named Best Sportsboy for his sport after a stellar year that saw him winning gold at the Asian Sailing Championships in Cambodia.

The St Joseph's Institution student, 17, said: "With this being the first National School Games held after the pandemic, it feels great to be back competing on an inter-school level, where an athlete is representing more than just (himself) when competing."

He was glad to be participating internationally again after overseas competitions were halted for two years. That had proved to be challenging, as it was difficult for his coaches and himself to identify his weaknesses and subsequently work on them in training.

While it took a few events for him to into the rhythm again, he is raring to compete at the SEA Games in Cambodia and the Asian Games in Hangzhou.

He said: "The ultimate aim for all athletes is to win, and similarly, I hope to achieve victory in the 2023 SEA Games and bring glory to Singapore and my school.

"The ultimate goal for all athletes is to reach the Olympic Games, but for now, I am purely focused on achieving success at the youth level before properly considering an Olympic campaign."

Correction note: In an earlier version of this story, we misnamed Queensway Secondary School. It has been corrected. We are sorry for the error. 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Best Sportsgirl gong for football to Lioness Irsalina. Subscribe