After a two-year Invincibles run in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL), the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team is set to kick off a new era when they take on Women’s National League (WNL) champions Royal Arion this Friday (12 January) evening in the Café Football (CF) Charity Cup.
Daniel Ong – goalkeeper coach for the past two seasons – has now taken over the reins of a new-look side, with six teenagers promoted from the club’s Girls Academy.
One of those is 14-year-old Yuvika Suresh who will travel to Our Tampines Hub (OTH) from school for her first senior game, an opportunity she still struggles to believe has arrived this soon.
“It felt surreal. I was elated when I found out that I would be playing alongside players I have always looked up to. I truly feel honoured to be given a chance to be a part of this team,” gushed the Cedar Girls Secondary Three student.
Yuvika is one of four 14-year-olds promoted to the WPL team, along with Tyan Foong (pictured below), Liyana Rickit and Seri Nurinsyirah, and are set to feature in the upcoming 2024 WPL season.
“I have played with Tyan and Liyana throughout my football journey with the Sailors and also the National Team at U14 and U16 levels. We are familiar with each other’s playing style as well as strengths and weaknesses. They have worked very hard all these years to be where they are. I’m humbled and grateful to be selected alongside them,” shared Yuvika.
Having jumped from seven-a-side games to playing in the Mattar Sailors’ WNL campaign last season, Yuvika has gained experience she will draw on when she plays with the big guns.
“The small-sided tournaments during the pandemic helped me improve individually. Going from playing against girls of the same age group to playing against women of different ages in the WNL, I needed to adapt quickly to the playing style of the team,” said Yuvika.
“Playing in the WNL gave me the opportunity to play without fear despite my age and smaller stature (at 1.54m tall). Apart from the technical skills I picked up, I am grateful for the opportunity to play in different positions in both defence and midfield because it has helped me understand the game better.”
Friday’s charity match may be her first rodeo with the senior girls, but not her first run against Royal Arion. Yuvika was part of the young Mattar Sailors squad which put up an impressive battling display against the talent-stacked Royal Arion in last year’s WNL final, before eventually falling to a 2-1 defeat.
The CF Charity Cup clash aims to raise funds for breast cancer patients, with the prize money of SGD$11,000 for the winners of the match to be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation in Singapore.
Despite the charity-focused nature of the fixture, bragging rights will be on the cards at OTH.
“The spine of the Arion team is made up of the four Thai National Team players with FIFA Women’s World Cup experience. It’ll be difficult to break through when we play down the middle, so we’ll need to focus on stretching their compact block by playing down the flanks,” said the left winger.
“Although I may lack the strength to make powerful crosses and shots, I hope to play the various combination passes for the team to advance forward.
“Should I play, I will try my very best to help my team and make our supporters proud.”