Thursday, November 30, 2023
HomesportLionesses goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati Rosman calls time on international career after 51...

Lionesses goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati Rosman calls time on international career after 51 caps

SINGAPORE – It has been a month since Noor Kusumawati Rosman retired from the national team, but returning home while the sun is still shining remains a strange feeling for the former Singapore goalkeeper.

For the past 12 years, early nights were rare for Kusumawati, 33, whose evenings were spent mostly at training or matches.

Leaving the Lionesses’ den after a long journey has not been easy, but Kusumawati, who works as an administrative assistant, is relishing life after international football.

She said: “It feels different to be home early after work but this is my life right now. I’m happy to have more time with my husband and my family members so that is one good thing that I haven’t been able to have the past few years.”

With 51 appearances, the former Singapore No. 1 retires as the Republic’s second most-capped female player, just behind defender Ernie Sontaril, 34, who has 58 appearances. But when she was younger, Kusumawati would never have imagined that she would feature for the Lionesses.

Her start in football was unexpected. She had been a netballer since primary school before she was approached at a co-curricular activity fair to join the Institute of Technical Education College East women’s football team, who were looking for a goalkeeper.

Kusumawati, who used to watch the World Cup with her football-fanatic father, decided to give it a try. She played several positions, including striker, but impressed between the sticks and has been a goalkeeper ever since.

It was tough at times in the beginning. She said: “It was a struggle at first because you’ll get whacked and when you concede, you feel down. But after a while, it pushed me to be stronger, braver, you just want to train hard to avoid all these mistakes or conceding goals.”

She progressed from school to club football and went for national team trials in 2011 and made her international debut at the AFF Women’s Championship that same year.

But facing international opponents was a totally different ball game. Being on the receiving end of lopsided scorelines and harsh comments online was sometimes demoralising, but not enough to dull Kusumawati’s drive.

She said: “At times, you feel like giving up. Even at half-time, when we were beaten 7-0, 10-0, we wanted to give up but no matter what we had to go for the 90 minutes to finish up the game, but we did our best and we went all out.”

While the women’s football scene here is still developing, she believes it has made progress in the last decade, with a young squad that has shown potential.

She pointed to the team’s 1-0 win over Laos at the Hanoi SEA Games a year ago, when the Lionesses notched their first victory at the biennial event since 1985.

“That was a big achievement not just for me, but for the team. We showed how brave we are, how much we really want this,” she noted. “We have improved over the years and that SEA Games moment, that winning game was a really proud moment for everyone.”

It was a competition that Kusumawati had delayed her retirement for. After getting married in early 2022, she had considered stepping down, but the allure of competing at the SEA Games – the Lionesses’ first since 2003 – was too strong.

Then came the opportunity to participate in the recent Asian Games in Hangzhou, where the Lionesses made their maiden Asiad appearance. There was also a chance she would be able to attain her 50th cap there.

It was a tough campaign as they played North Korea twice after the withdrawal of Cambodia, losing 17-0 on aggregate to the three-time Asian Games champions.

But there were still positives, with Kusumawati saying: “It was a good experience, at least we have these tough opponents that we can learn from to bring back and slowly learn from our mistakes.”

While she has retired from the national team, she has not ruled out continuing club football or going into coaching. One thing the Lion City Sailors custodian, who has clinched back-to-back Women’s Premier League titles, misses is her teammates.

She said: “It’s like a family, football is my second family. We love each other – we train hard, no matter what we push each other to never give up.”

Lionesses coach Karim Bencherifa paid tribute to her, saying: “An unwavering goalkeeper on the pitch, Wati has left a legacy etched in the local women’s football scene.

“While I hoped for more time coaching her, I respect her decision to retire. Her professionalism has been a guiding light, shaping not just matches, but inspiring those around her.”

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