A new year, a new setup, but the same outcome. 

The Lion City Sailors Women’s Team – champions of the Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) for the past two seasons – emerged 4-2 winners over second-tier Women’s National League (WNL) champions Royal Arion in the Café Football (CF) Charity Cup 2024 at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) on Friday (12 January) evening. 

Sailors Head Coach Daniel Ong put out a youthful starting eleven which averaged just 19.8 years old and he was not disappointed.

The Sailors women put up a bright showing against an Arion side that have four Thai national players – Orapin Waenngoen, Sunisa Srangthaisong, Pikul Khueanpet (pictured above in a duel with Madison Telmer) and Waraporn Boonsing, all with FIFA Women’s World Cup pedigree – in their ranks.

Sailors’ two new signings Qarissa Putri Ramandhani and Nur Sarah Zu’risqha scored on their debuts, while 20-year-old Raeka Ee (pictured below) provided a good attacking outlet further afield on her senior bow.

All six teenagers promoted from the club’s Girls Academy in 2024 also featured in a game contested in good spirit, with 14-year-old Tyan Foong getting a start and putting up a resilient display at the heart of defence alongside Nur Umairah Hamdan to thwart the Thai attackers.

The other five – Izairida Shakira, Seri Nurinsyirah, Nadia Nuraffendi, Liyana Rickit and Yuvika Suresh – all came on in the second half. 

The prize money of SGD$11,000 was donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation in Singapore to aid support and raise awareness for breast cancer, rounding off a meaningful evening at OTH.

“We are really proud to see our young players do well,” gushed Head Coach, Daniel after his first official match in charge of the women.

“That’s what Yeong Sheau Shyan (now Head of the Sailors Women’s Programme) and the others in the Girls Academy are building. As a club, we want to progressively promote our academy girls to play in the WPL. Yuvika, Liyana, Tyan, Nadia and the rest being here is a testament of what we’re building here.

“We’re also proud as a club to play our part in such a worthy initiative and raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation.”

A tightly-contested first half came to life in the 37th minute when Qarissa’s cheeky lob from the edge of the box looped over Arion’s experienced Thai custodian Waraporn to make it 1-0 to the Sailors.

Five minutes later, the lead was doubled with Sarah getting past two players with some nifty footwork before unleashing a right-footed rocket that beat Waraporn and sent the crowd at OTH into a frenzy. 

“The goal was a very meaningful one for me. I’ve never scored a goal like this in my life,” said the 17-year-old, whose family and friends were in the stands.

“I’m very grateful that they came because they’ve only ever been to a few matches before and I’m very happy they saw me score. I was too focused on shooting and couldn’t hear the crowd! Initially, I wanted to pass to my teammates but they were encouraging me to shoot so I gathered my courage.”

The two debutants getting on the scoresheet illustrated just how quickly the new-look Sailors women have come together. 

“Sarah (pictured above) and Qarissa did well to score in their first appearances for us despite having joined only a few weeks ago. That shows how fast they can adapt to our style of play and gel with their teammates,” said Daniel.

Goal-scorer Sarah sang from the same hymn book. 

“As a team, we know each other’s playing styles. Even though I just signed with the club, they already know how I want the ball to be played to me after a few training sessions,” she said.

The Sailors picked up where they left off after the break and made it 3-0, with Nur Izzati Rosni calmly converting from the spot after Arion was penalised for a handball in the area. 

To Royal Arion’s credit, they fought back with Pikul pulling one back in the 75th minute but the Sailors would put the result beyond doubt 11 minutes later.

Centre-back Sara Hayduchok who came on to replace Tyan in the 74th minute rose highest to head home a well-placed Miray Altun corner for the Sailors’ fourth goal of the night. 

The opponents did find a consolation just before the end with Orapin clipping the ball over young custodian Shakira, who replaced 2022 and 2023 WPL Golden Glove winner Beatrice Tan in goal for the second half. 

Nonetheless, it did not overshadow a promising night for a new-look Sailors Women side who are determined to pave the way forward for women’s football in Singapore. 

“Obviously there’s some pressure taking over from Coach Sheau Shyan, who led the team to two undefeated WPL seasons. But I’m very focused right now on improving the young players here in our team and hopefully we can help to bring up the standard of the women’s game in Singapore as a result,” said Daniel. 

“There are still several things for us to work on, individually and as a team. So we’re going to train very hard to make sure we’re ready going into the 2024 WPL season.”