Watching her on the pitch, it is easy to assume that the assured Tia Foong is a seasoned footballer. Her maturity and know-how belies her age, and the fact that this is the 16-year-old’s debut season in the Lion City Sailors Women Team.

One of seven players promoted from the Sailors’ Girls Academy, Tia is beginning to get regular game time in the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) for the Sailors who currently top the 10-team WPL table, four points ahead of Albirex Niigata (S) with five games left to play. 

Tia credits her teammates and Head Coach, Yeong Sheau Shyan for shaping her into the player she has become, and hopes to continue in her rich vein of form when the Sailors take on Balestier Khalsa on Sunday (22 October) at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

“This season I’ve gained much more insight and valuable experiences through these WPL matches. Through analysis of the game with Coach Sheau Shyan’s help, we are able to identify our shortcomings and work on it as a team,” said the right-back.

In the Sailors’ 1-0 win against Tanjong Pagar last weekend, Tia impressed in her role as a defensive midfielder alongside fellow teenager Madelin Lock. It was the first time she was moved further up the pitch, from her usual position in defence. 

“Although I wasn’t very familiar with the new position, everyone gave me the support I needed,” she said. “They guided me, telling me what I needed to do, and that was very comforting as I sometimes got quite lost during the match.”

Tia describes the experience of jumping from the Women’s National League (WNL) to the WPL as a surreal one. 

“It has been an honour to play alongside the people I’ve always looked up to. They’ve helped me push my limits and have helped make me a better player as a whole, and I’m really grateful to be in this team,” she gushed. 

It has not only been a momentous year for Tia in football, but also at school where the Secondary Four student is currently in the midst of her ‘O’ Level examinations.

“It has definitely not been easy for me. It’s been quite stressful at times, but with proper time management and a realistic daily to-do list, it’s quite manageable,” she said.

Goalkeeper, Beatrice Tan paid tribute to the Sailors’ team spirit, attributing wins and clean sheets including the one against Tanjong Pagar United last weekend to the strong camaraderie in the dressing room. 

“I’m grateful to my teammates for covering and protecting me, that definitely boosted my confidence. Even though we were very lean, everyone played their hearts out, covered one another, stuck to the game plan and delivered,” said Beatrice, paying tribute to her team for coming out tops despite injuries forcing the team to manage with only two substitutes on the bench.  

Despite the string of wins, Beatrice is adamant that the team is not getting ahead of themselves in what is the final stretch of the WPL season. 

“Like what we always say and do, we take things one game at a time. We treat every opponent with respect and will not be complacent,” she noted.

“We will focus on the game plan for every match, keep ourselves fit, healthy and ready for every match. That’s the key.”