Wonder Women: Stephanie Roche
In 2013, Stephanie scored an incredible goal while playing for Peamount United – only for the goal being captured on camera by the team’s manager, few people would have ever had the privilege of seeing it. Now the goal has over one million hits on YouTube and has made Stephanie Roche a household name here in Ireland and in the world of professional soccer.
Stephanie Roche has proven that soccer is no longer just a ‘man’s sport’. She joined some of the leading faces in the soccer industry at the prestigious Ballon d’Or on January 12th of this year and was the first Irish International player to ever be shortlisted for the Puskás Award. Stephanie was also the only female player to appear on the list of nominations. While she may not have won the Puskás Award, she did come in second place which put her ahead of some of the leading men in the world of soccer, such as Robin van Persie. Roche received 33 percent of the entire vote for the Puskás award.
Stephanie is a positive figure for sportswomen in Ireland. She shows that motivation and dedication pay off in the long run. Having spent the last seven years playing for our international team, Roche signed a two-year deal with British football club, Sunderland, in June. Despite her recent accomplishments, Stephanie remains grounded and takes everything in her stride. She likes to live in the moment. Following her new found fame, I was interested in finding out about her thoughts on being a role model for girls, her new contract with Sunderland and her plans for the future.
Describe yourself in three words.
Quiet, friendly, kind.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?
Football was always what I wanted to do, I always had ambitions to play for Ireland. That was all I wanted really!
What first drew you into the world of professional soccer?
I had been playing international football for years and was offered contracts a few times but nothing ever came of them. Seeing some of my international team mates going away to play made me first think about it. I wanted to better myself as a player so that was the main reason.
How has your perception of the soccer industry changed since you first entered?
Everyone thinks because your playing professional football that you live a life of luxury but in the women’s game it’s different. We have to do a lot of work to get recognised and behind the scenes it’s far from the lavish lifestyle people would think it is!
How are you settling into your new life at Sunderland?
I’m happy at Sunderland, I’m playing every week and gradually settling into the team and style of play. I feel I’ve got better with each game and I want to do well for Sunderland for as long as possible.
How did it feel to be listed amongst some of the leading figures in soccer for the Puskas Awards last year and how did you handle the surrounding publicity?
The publicity was like something I’d never experienced before so that was strange. I just tried to be myself in every interview I did. I had so much support from the Irish public and from people all over the world. I cant thank people enough for what they helped me experience the last few months. It’s been amazing.
Did you ever imagine that scoring that goal for Peaumont Utd would lead to you getting such amazing opportunities such as getting to spend time playing for Houston Dash?
No, I don’t think anyone thought it would be recognised by Fifa. We all knew it was a good goal but I never expected to get shortlisted for the Puskás. It was a great experience for me.
Did you ever feel you had sacrifice anything to focus on soccer full-time?
Yes definitely, I don’t know how many jobs I had to leave or miss days for football, particularly before I went professional. So many girls I know give up countless job opportunities to put football first. Girls on my international team work and have to miss weeks of work unpaid just to play football. It’s what needs to be done if we want to be top players. They also love it so much they are willing to do that. It would be nice not to have to sacrifice things but that’s just how it is right now.
Do you ever feel under pressure to perform following this fame surrounding you?
Not really, I’d be a very quiet girl away from everything that has happened. I like to train, play matches and get my job done. Then have my own space away from football. That’s how I’ve always been so that hasn’t changed. All I can do is my best.
How does it feel to be a role model for young girls looking to follow their dreams?
I’m happy to be a role model, I’ve had so many young kids (boys too) get in touch with me over the last few months. I think it’s important for young girls in particular to have a female role model in sports. That’s why I always try get back to anyone who writes to me.
With all of these big plans on the horizon, where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in five years time?
Right now I’m just concentrating on the here and now. That’s what I’ve always done. I’m happy at Sunderland and want to improve as a player for the team. I’d like to be successful here and also with Ireland. I would love to get to a major tournament with Ireland before I stop playing.
Photo c/o twitter.com