Stephanie Roche: Fifa’s goal of the year? It’s up to you . . .

Voting closes on Sunday night - will women’s football have its day in the sun?

Stephanie Roche: “I’m happy. It’s been great. I’m not nervous. People tell me I’m in with a good shot and it’s the best goal. I’d love to go to the ceremony.”

Stephanie Roche: “I’m happy. It’s been great. I’m not nervous. People tell me I’m in with a good shot and it’s the best goal. I’d love to go to the ceremony.”

 

By next Monday, the denizens at world soccer body Fifa will be down to the top three goals scored in the past 12 months.

Thousands of strikes that landed between goalposts somewhere on the planet between October 3rd, 2013 and September 26th, 2014 were considered for the soccer body’s Puskas Award. At present we are down to the final 10.

Last year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunner for Sweden against England in a “friendly” scooped the award. He is nominated again this year.

On December 1st we find out whether womanhood - in this case Irish womanhood in the form of international Stephanie Roche, then of Peamount United, now of French Division 1 Féminine team ASPTT Albi, has made it to the final three.

Roche spent the day training on Tuesday. It was busy. She had only just finished her dinner at 9pm, but she is feeling good about being nominated.

“I’m happy. It’s been great. I’m not nervous. People tell me I’m in with a good shot and it’s the best goal. I’d love to go to the ceremony.”

And Roche is confident that she isn’t a token woman.

Anyone watching her glorious three-touch-and-in effort against Wexford Youths in October last year in Ferrycarraig, can’t but agree. The bookies seem on the verge of being convinced too.

According to a top online amalgamated betting site, Roche’s effort lies in fourth place behind James Rodriguez’s spectacular goal-of-the-World-Cup for Colombia in their 2-0 win over Uruguay, Robin van Persie’s header in the Netherlands’ 5-1 World Cup win over Spain and Tim Cahill’s goal for Australia against the Dutch - again in the World Cup.

“A toss up between James, Stephanie and RVP but on the whole I’d go for Stephanie Roche’s goal . . . It took more touches, each one having to be perfect, and relied less on that single flash of genius, luck or fortune (call it what you will),” said one online commenter.

They are not alone.

Republic of Ireland, Manchester United and Aston Villa legend Paul McGrath is a card-carrying member of Team Roche.

“Been talking about Stephanie all day, has to win top goal unbelievable she has to win simples. STEPHANIE MUST WIN”, he tweeted.

Another Manchester United old boy, Norman Whiteside, also tweeted his support. “Just voted. Good luck BTW great goal.”

Unlike the other goals on the Puskas list, Roche’s strike only got filmed by luck rather than design.

“I am glad it was caught on camera. Most of our games aren’t filmed, so I was lucky enough that this one was,” says Roche.

The goal has been watched almost three million times on YouTube. Only 95 spectators watched the original game.

Since 2009, six women have been nominated for the award. “I don’t think they have made the top three,” says Roche, who adds that getting a final berth will make a difference for the women’s game.

“It’s putting women’s football in the spotlight and it makes people realise that women have technical ability.

“I’d like to think that it will give girls who like football heart and encourage girls to keep playing football past the age of 13 and 14 when they can get distracted by other things in life,” she says.

A French TV crew have been in touch with Roche to ask if they can film her next week when she finds out whether she has made the top three. She has declined.

Stephanie Roche is just happy.

Happy to be being paid for playing football. Happy to be recognised for her soccer skills.

“I’m not getting paid that much, but I’m glad I’ve been able to make football my job. I just want to improve.”

Being up there with Rodriguez, Ibrahimovic and Van Persie must be going some way to silencing the nay-sayers who think the women’s soccer is a pale reflection of the men’s game?

Does Roche think the women’s game is inferior to the men’s?

“I would disagree with that and I’m a big supporter of men’s football. I regularly go to national league games, internationals and over to Manchester to watch United.

“The difference between men’s and women’s football is that we’re built differently. They are stronger and faster so the pace of the game is different. Skill wise I think women are just as good.”

And to the remaining doubters, Roche has this advice: “To be honest I think people just need to go out and watch a game.”

Sound advice.

In the meantime, Roche’s strike deserves your consideration.

Vote for the Puskás award here: http://www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/

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