Republic of Ireland international Stephanie Roche is aiming to take her place among football’s elite when the three-person shortlist for the chance to win the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award in announced on December 1, 2014.
The 25 year-old from Shankill in Dublin would be the first woman to ever win the award should she ultimately secure a majority vote at the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony on January 12, 2015.
Established in 2009, the Puskás Award is given to the player – male or female – that has scored the best goal of the year in world football as voted for by the general public. Ferenc Puskás, the Hungarian legend who the award is named after, is one of the top scorers from the 20th century with 512 goals in 528 matches.
Roche’s strike for Peamount United against Wexford Youths on October 20, 2013 is the only goal scored by a female player on the list of ten candidates.
With a viral campaign on her side and the whole of the Republic of Ireland adding their support, Roche is certainly in with a chance of creating history. And with family and friends betting in her favour, Roche is trying not to get too excited.
“A few of them have placed bets yes, I haven’t done it myself so I don’t want to jinx it! A lot of people have been sending me Paddy Power screen shots and stuff like that,” said Roche.
“The support has been unbelievable to be honest with you. I would just like to say thanks to all of the Irish people, I’ve been trying to say it all week. I’ve obviously been away, but my family have been telling me there’s so much in the paper and on Twitter, so the support has been phenomenal.”
Back at the 2010 FIFA ceremony, Matty Burrows of Glentoran claimed third place in the Puskás Award after seeing off the likes of Lionel Messi, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Neymar. With competition proving just as fierce this year, Roche is hopeful that a lesser celebrated league can gain recognition once again.
“Yeah definitely, I think someone mentioned that to me the other day,” said Roche. “It’s great to see that he got so far and hopefully I’ll be able to do that as well.”
Stars of last summer’s World Cup such as James Rodríguez, Tim Cahill and Robin van Persie will likely provide Roche’s sternest opposition. However, should the striker lose out to one of the leading names in world football, she has no doubt as to who deserves to win the award.
“I follow Manchester United, so I would probably say Robin van Persie. I like him as a player and I remember watching it at the time, thinking it was a great goal, so I’d probably say that.”
After signing for French Division 1 side ASPTT Albi in July from Peamount United, Roche is still settling in to life in the south of France. And after an encouraging start which has seen the striker score two goals in her first eight games, Roche is looking to take her form into the second half of the season.
“It’s been really good to be honest, the football has been great. Obviously, it’s a different culture and a different lifestyle, that’s the only difference,” said Roche.
“Football-wise I’ve loved it; I just want to play as much as I can. I played on Saturday and had a really good game so I just want to build on that and give them everything I can for the year.”
Voting is open on www.fifa.com until December 1 to reduce the list of candidates from ten to three, with the eventual winner being announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich, Switzerland on January 12, 2015.