Stephanie Roche hopeful of success in Puskas Award

Irish striker and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez are neck and neck for goal of the year

Stephanie Roche. ‘We are going to get to Switzerland a little bit earlier because I want to savour as much of it as possible’   Photograph:  Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

Stephanie Roche. ‘We are going to get to Switzerland a little bit earlier because I want to savour as much of it as possible’ Photograph: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

 

There is, says Stephanie Roche as she talks about playing professionally in France, a “universal language” to football that has allowed her to cope in training and games while she struggles to get to grips with the actual local lingo.

And recently she’s realised there’s a universal language to celebrity, too, with repeated viewings of her Puskas Award-nominated goal leading to the 25-year-old being suddenly stopped in supermarkets by strangers struggling to communicate a request to the Irishwoman.

“I didn’t know what they were saying,” she acknowledges with a laugh, “until they said ‘selfie’. But then I just said, “yeah, okay”.

Roche heads back to France today after a Christmas break at home in Dublin that has doubled as a promotional media blitz. The bookies have the Fifa award as being between her and James Rodriguez of Real Madrid, with Robin Van Persie somewhat off the pace.

International attention

With the enthusiastic encouragement of unofficial campaign manager, Irish team-mate Áine O’Gorman, she has been taking calls from both home and around the globe in an attempt to generate the votes that might decide the public ballot in her favour.

“When I made the top 10, the ambition was to get to the last three and be able to actually go to the awards,” she says. “Now that I’m there and people have been voting for the goal it is getting to the point where I’m thinking: ‘If I keep on pushing this then maybe I can get enough votes to win it.’ ”

Her club, she says, has been pleased with all the publicity but ASPTT Albi’s schedule presents a problem now that she will indeed be required to be in Zurich on Monday week. They are due to play in Soyaux, a town of 10,000 people 150km inland from the port of La Rochelle the previous afternoon.

“There are no flights out of Soyaux,” she says, “so basically my options are to take a nine-hour drive from Soyaux to Zurich and get there at two o’clock in the morning then have a sleep or to travel with the team back to Albi then get a flight from Toulouse to Amsterdam and one from Amsterdam to Zurich. That gets me to Amsterdam for 11am.”

Van Persie will most likely be playing for Manchester United against Southampton around the same time but it’s hard to imagine he’s spent quite as much time frantically weighing up how to get to the Swiss capital.

“I think what we’re going to do,” concludes Roche, “is to just do the drive and get it over with and get there a little bit earlier because I want to savour as much of it as possible.”

The “we” in this case includes her father and brother as well as long-time boyfriend, Dean Zambra, whose own late season cracker for Bray Wanderers against Athlone Town attracted a fair bit of attention in League of Ireland circles.

“Yeah,” she jokes, “he’s been wondering how my goal got picked for goal of the year and his didn’t to be honest.”

He narrowly missed out in most goal-of-the- season polls, but if O’Gorman has anything to do with it Roche won’t suffer the same fate.

The then Peamount United player supplied the pass to her friend that led to the goal and she is now working overtime to ensure it gets the recognition just about everyone in Irish women’s football is convinced it deserves. “Steph is my friend,” says O’Gorman, “and I would just want to do everything we can to help her win the award.”

Early and often

This seems to consist of encouraging people to follow her lead in voting early and often.

“Everybody knows that it’s the best goal so it’s just a matter of outvoting the Colombians. You can go in [to fifa.com], vote for Steph, come out, go to settings on [your browser], clear your cookies, go back in, vote again and you can repeat that as many times as you want.

“When my dad heard me saying this he told me it was cheating,” O’Gorman says with a grin, “but it’s not cheating, it’s just winning.”

Vote for the Puskas Award at fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award

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