With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil thrilling fans around the world, there is an emerging young crop of footballers who are hoping to rewrite history and make waves right here at home.
Yes, young local footballers.
No, not Irfan Fandi or Adam Swandi.
We’re talking about Nurul Khairiah. Our very own female footballer who has already been called up to the Women’s National Football Team and at the youthful age of 18, has represented Singapore for the past seven years across all age-groups.
Ironically, Nurul, who is currently a year two AMS student here at Temasek Polytechnic, did not start off with football as the first sport she participated in.
She grew up being influenced by her father (Mr Azhar Bin Omar) and elder brother (Taufik Khairi) who have both represented Singapore at various youth age groups in tennis.
“My family’s background in tennis made me start playing the game since I was six-years-old but in Primary Two, I began to develop a strong interest in football.” said the affable teen. “Unfortunately, my Secondary School (CHIJ Katong Convent) did not have women football as a CCA and I went to join the Floorball team but whenever I had the chance, I would join the boys around the estate for football after school!”
Nurul’s love for the game saw her train hard and her talent was obvious. Her big break came in 2008 when the Football Association of Singapore held trials to form a team for their upcoming women’s tournaments and needless to say, the tenacious midfield made the cut and her first competition was the AFC Girls’ Festival of Football later that year.
The midfielder who cites Cristiano Ronaldo as her football inspiration is one of the few success stories in the women’s football scene and has gone through the National Football Academy ranks from U13s, to her current team the U19s, who are currently preparing for the U19 AFC and AFF Qualifying Round later this year.
Despite her obvious footballing talent, the AMS student has her mind set on doing well in her studies foremost.
“I started playing football while sitting for my PSLE so I know how to juggle studies and football. I have learnt to prioritise my time and for me, studies comes first while football is a close second. I scored 11 points in my ‘O’ Levels and AMS was always my first choice. I’ve always been an aviation fan since young so this course is a dream come true for me.”
While she is doing well in the classroom, Nurul has been trying to put our TP Women’s Football Team on the map and with her help, TP managed to finish third in the 2013 POL-ITE tournament.
Her hectic schedule sees her train six days a week along with her routine schoolwork and she knows just why she has been able to cope with all the mental pressure and physical fatigue well.
She said: “My mum (Mdm Zulaimah) and dad have played a huge role in my growing up years. They used to ferry me to and from school and training. The amazing thing is they have never missed a single local match I have participated in and I know I have their full support on the pitch.”
With another year to go before she graduates with a Diploma in Aviation Management & Services(T04), Nurul is likely to further her studies or look for a job with football only deemed enough as a hobby.
“I love the game a lot and the thrill I get playing for club (Eunos Crescent FC) and the national age group teams is something that I want more of. However, the womens’ game is not strong enough locally, so this will be a lifelong hobby for me but rest assured, I will continue to train as hard as I can and give it my all.” bemoaned the teen.
The midfielder’s words haven’t gone unnoticed as there have been many discussions in the media the past few weeks pertaining to the need to give more support to the women’s football scene here and if Nurul and her teammates are to turn professional one day, we all need to back them up and create a supportive environment for the next generation of female footballers to be nurtured in.
For all that it’s worth, we here at TP are proud of you Nurul Khairiah. And we hope your contributions on the pitch will not go unnoticed for long. Run along and become the next Brigit Prinz or Sun Wen!