For many, the name Stephanie Roche doesn't ring a bell, however, if you are immersed in the world of football, you would know that she put women's football on the map in Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland and Féminine team ASPTT Albi forward was the only woman chosen in a long-list of nominees for this year’s FIFA Puskás Award. Without question, beating previous FIFA Ballon d’Or winners, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to any award is no small task.
Roche (25) will battle it out against some of the best footballers in the world such as; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (last year’s winner), Robin Van Persie and also James Rodriguez who scored the Goal of the Tournament at Brazil 2014. Hopefully, she will be rewarded for her flawless strike in Ireland’s Women's National League last season.
“It's great. I'm a huge fan of football and watch any game that's on TV. I obviously watched the World Cup and would have seen and admired those goals and all of the others. So for my goal to be amongst them as one of the top ten goals is a nice feeling. I just want to make the top 3 now,” said Stephanie.
The footage of her goal went viral within days and has since received just over three million views on YouTube, “I'm glad it was caught on camera. Most of our games aren't filmed, so I was lucky enough that this one was,” she said. “My phone was hoping for three weeks straight last year when the goal went viral and it's pretty much the same again now. The power of social media is unbelievable, I'm just happy that so many people are getting behind me.
In that very famous game on the 20th of October 2013, Peamount United beat Wexford Youth 6-1. An impressive result, but it was Roche who scored the headlines. A three-touch effort on the volley at the edge of the penalty area, from a well delivered cross, she gracefully dinked the ball over the opposition goalkeeper.
“I'd like to think it's a pretty good goal, so I'm just glad people got to see it. It was great to see my goal getting recognition. I mean there are plenty of girls in the league who score great goals that don't get the recognition, so I've been lucky to get it,” Stephanie said.
In 2013, The Football Association of Ireland's core grant was €3.1 million. Its funding towards women in sport was only €192,274. Most of the time, female athletes and women's sports get far less than they deserve.
“Women playing football is definitely underrated,” said Stephanie, “It has been like that for years, but women's football is on the rise and is beginning to get some serious recognition. Games are being shown live on TV now which was never done before, that's a huge step in itself. It still needs more of a push but I think it will get that over the coming years.”
When it comes to women playing football, many individuals believe that a female can't play and there's no skill in the sport. Roche's goal brought a new era to women's football and has helped bring more attention to the women's game in Ireland.
“Women have great technical ability with a football and can do just about anything men can do. The only difference in the men's game is it can be a slightly faster pace as men are built stronger and faster than most women,” said Stephanie.
“I played in the streets with friends for as long as I can remember. I joined a boys’ team when I was 11. I have friends who are lads that I've played football with and they respect me as a footballer, so it's nice that a lot more people can see what women can do on the pitch.”
“I was on a course called Project Futsal last year and I also interned on it for a year too. It was all men on the course the first year, so I was the only girl playing against men. They never treated me differently and I was happy with that because I was just as good (if not better) than most of them and they could see that. A lot of guys there would probably have never been to a women’s match before, and they came to a few of my Ireland games and now they are regulars.”
As a child Roche looked up to her brothers who played football and many Manchester united forwards “inspired” her. For thousands of women and children across the country, Roche has given them the edge to take a chance and believe that they can do it too.
“I don't think I need to say anything to encourage women to start playing. Women and girls who love football will play no matter what. I think the thing I'd need to encourage is for them to continue to play, and for them to enjoy every minute of playing while they can.”
“I just love football, so to be able to play full time now is a dream come true.”
View Stephanie's wonder goal below: