The Lion City Sailors might be making their debut in the Singapore Women’s Premier League (WPL) this season, but that has not stopped them from aiming high, as they look to emulate the men’s team by winning the league title.

It is not hard to see why the Sailors fancy their chances of becoming champions. Led by head coach Yeong Sheau Shyan, the Sailors boast a talented squad with a good blend of youth and experience that includes a number of Singapore internationals, including the likes of National Team captain Ernie Sulastri, up-and-coming midfielder Nur Izzati, as well as the likes of Dorcas Chu and Canadian Madison Telmer .

“In terms of results, we are gunning for the top,” declared Sheau Shyan. “But we are also more focused on the process. This is our maiden season, and the goal is to really get everyone training hard, understanding the way we want to play, and develop over the next three years.”

And the Sailors do not just want to win the WPL title – they want to do so in style, by playing an attacking and exciting brand of football.

“We want to come out and play good attacking football. After all, our belief is that football must be fun and entertaining,” Sheau Shyan said.

Since the Sailors’ inception in 2020, the club has established for itself a reputation of being an ambitious trailblazer, with the men’s team winning the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title last year, while also making history in their impressive maiden Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) campaign last month.

Sheau Shyan admits that the success achieved by the club so far has raised expectations, calling for the women’s team to follow suit. She said: “I always have very high personal expectations for each season, but this is the first time I’ve felt any external pressure to perform.”

Sailors captain Ernie echoed the sentiment, as she added: “There is definitely added pressure on the team. There is a certain level that the public expects from us as we are representing the Sailors.

“However, if we stick together as a team, follow our coach’s strategic plans, give our best in every game and trust the process, then I’m confident that everything will fall into place for us.”

While the Sailors are among the favourites to win the WPL title, both Sheau Shyan and Ernie are well aware that it will not be an easy target to achieve.

For one, Covid-19 pandemic – which forced the WPL into a two-year hiatus – meant that the team had limited opportunities to train together, much less play matches.

“We are trying to get the team to gel in a short span of time,” Sheau Shyan explained. “As we were previously restricted by Covid-19 measures, we’re talking about a mere two weeks of full team training together in two years.”

Given the quality of the other six teams in the league, the Sailors can also expect stern competition for the WPL title. 

“All the teams in the WPL are under high-calibre coaches whom I respect,” Ernie mused. “Under the guidance of these coaches, I believe all the teams will put on a good fight and perform to the best of their abilities, so every game will be a challenge for us.”

While the WPL season officially kicks off this weekend, the Sailors have to wait till next week before making their debut with a clash against Albirex Niigata (S).

Sheau Shyan hailed the Jurong-based outfit as an “experienced team…that plays direct football”, while Ernie believes that they will prove to be difficult to break down.

“We expect Albirex to play a more defensive, tactical style of football,” said Ernie. “It will not be an easy match, but we trust coach Sheau Shyan’s tactical plan will get us the victory. We just need to execute it well and do our best to make her proud.”