Stephanie Roche unfazed by tough trek to Zurich for Puskas awards
After taking a challenging route to the top of her game, Stephanie Roche has an equally arduous journey looming to attend the FIFA Awards ceremony in Zurich on Monday week.
The 25-year-old from Shankill has boosted the profile of women's football both in Ireland and abroad by becoming the first woman to reach the final three contenders for the best goal in world football.
While her rivals for the gong at the glitzy Ballon d'Or ceremony, James Rodríguez and Robin van Persie, are to be flown into the Swiss capital on private jets, club commitments for French outfit ASPTT Albi mean Roche must undertake a nine-hour car trip deep into the night.
"We've a game at 3pm on Sunday in Soyaux which is the middle of nowhere and there are no flights from there," she explained yesterday in Dublin on the final day of a festive break.
"The two options are either travel directly by car and arrive in Zurich at 2am or come back with the squad to Albi, catch a flight from Toulouse to Amsterdam and then drive to Zurich just in time for the ceremony.
"I want to soak up the atmosphere of the event, so we'll go by car."
With voting open until the event day, the Ireland winger is pleading for a final push from the public, both in Ireland and beyond, as Real Madrid's Colombian's playmaker Rodríguez is currently favourite to triumph for his strike in the World Cup.
Roche's determination remains, however, and with the clip of her goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths heading towards five million Youtube hits, she's confident of success.
"Finishing second isn't going to be much use to me in the future," she admitted.
"If I was to win the award, it would make a huge difference to myself and the game overall in Ireland.
"I've had the likes of John Hartson, Ian Wright, Martin O'Neill and even David Luiz say mine is the best goal of the three."
Roche's story and the resultant fame has drawn attention from unlikely quarters.
"I've been stopped in a couple of supermarkets in France and asked for selfies," she said.
"Learning the language has been the most difficult part of living in France but there's a universal understanding of what a selfie is!
"Hopefully, people keep voting and the goal wins. It would be great to win but it wouldn't change me. Everyone knows that I'm not a cocky player," added Roche.
• To register your vote, visit: fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award