Friday 20 October 2017

'Disappointed but proud' Stephanie Roche congratulates James Rodriguez and hopes women's game will benefit from publicity

The Ireland international received a third of the votes, with Rodriguez taking the prize with 42pc of the public vote.

John Fallon in Zurich

Stephanie Roche is hoping that her feat of pushing James Rodríguez close for the Fifa Puskás Goal of the Year provides a boost for women’s football in Ireland and further afield.

The Ireland winger captured 33 per cent of the 3.3 million votes cast in the public poll of the greatest goal in the world between October 2013 and 2014. Although she surpassed the one million mark, she was nine per cent short of Rodriguez, while Robin Van Persie finished the last of the three contenders on 11%.

Speaking after the gala ceremony at Kongresshalle in Zurich, the 25-year-old was understandably disappointed while keeping in perspective the strides made by a goal she scored in front of 95 people for Peamount United against Wexford Youths.

“I would like to congratulate James for winning the award,” she said.

“I am disappointed but, at the same time, I must thank all the people that voted for me back in Ireland and around the world.

“My hope now is that getting to this stage with the goal can help promote women’s football by getting more publicity.

Republic of Ireland International Stephanie Roche in attendance at the FIFA Ballon D'Or 2014.
Republic of Ireland International Stephanie Roche in attendance at the FIFA Ballon D'Or 2014.

“By becoming the first woman to reach the final three, it just goes to show that we can compete with the men’s players.”

A public vote was underway until midway through yesterday's Ballon D'Or ceremony with Roche pushing the Colombian all the way in the final strait.

The sublime volley by Roche for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in October 2013, which was caught only on an amateur video camera, was considered the best goal of the three contenders by David Luiz, Gary Lineker and Robbie Keane.

It wasn't just inside the world of sport that her magic moment caught attention, as the One Direction’s Niall Horan had voiced his approval.

Stephanie Roche at the Ballon d'Or award ceremony with boyfriend Dean Zambra
Stephanie Roche at the Ballon d'Or award ceremony with boyfriend Dean Zambra

Hundreds of people gathered with her family at Brady's Pub in Shankill for the event and her mother Anne said afterwards that she couldn't have been prouder.

"I'm very proud of my daughter, I'm the proudest mammy in Ireland. She's up there with the top three and she's as good as any of them," she said.

"She's still a winner to me anyway," she added.

For all that support in Ireland and further afield, Roche faced an uphill task to usurp Rodriguez, given the concerted campaign underway in his homeland that has a population of over 40 million.

FAI CEO John Delaney said: “Stephanie has done Irish Football proud. Her goal has been acclaimed internationally and rightly so. Getting to the final three is the world is a truly incredible achievement. Stephanie and the Association thank everyone who voted her. She is a fantastic ambassador for Irish football and for our country and we look forward to honouring her achievement at our own awards in March.”

Minister Ring said: “I would like to congratulate Stephanie Roche on her fantastic achievement in being shortlisted for the FIFA Puskás Award in Zurich for the best goal of 2014. Stephanie’s goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in the Women’s National League showed great skill and technical ability and was a goal in a million.

Stephanie Roche: 'I'd rather my goal be seen as a great footballing goal rather than a female goal'
Stephanie Roche: 'I'd rather my goal be seen as a great footballing goal rather than a female goal'

She thoroughly deserves all the praise she has received and I am sure she is a little disappointed but she should be very proud of her achievement," Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring said afterwards.

"It was wonderful to see the global attention that Stephanie received since she was shortlisted for the award along with such global superstars as Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez. I have no doubt that all her family and friends and the whole country are delighted and proud of her achievement."

"Stephanie has been a wonderful ambassador for her sport and her country since being nominated for the award. The publicity that it has generated for the profile of the Women’s National League and Irish women’s sport in general is very welcome.”

Last week Roche's agent revealed she is leaving French club Albi, with French reports said Roche was "homesick" and struggled with the language barrier.

"She has benefited so much from her success, inevitably, she has had other offers from richer clubs. This is normal, we're not going to hold her back," David Welferinger said.

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