Nine Years and Going Strong: She's a Keeper
Nine Years and Going Strong: She's a Keeper
Many know Kusumawati Rosman as the Women’s National Team first-choice goalkeeper and captain but few know about her playing netball before making the switch to football at the age of 18. In fact, when she first started playing, she was a striker but has switched from scoring goals to preventing them.
One of the more senior players in the National Team, Wati has now been part of the team for eight years. Her invaluable experience was an asset to the young team – with an average age of 22.3 – when they played in the Women’s Development Tournament 2017.
“I was interested in football when I was young, but didn’t know that there were women’s football teams in Singapore. So when I started to play in Institute of Technical Education (ITE), some of the seniors encouraged me to try out for the National Team. That’s how I started to play for the National Team,” she recounted fondly.
“Even though it’s literally a whole new ball game (from netball), I wanted to try it out and challenge myself. It interested me; maybe because it’s commonly perceived to be a sport for guys, so I really wanted to prove that I can do it too.”
It is with such determination that the 26-year-old administrative assistant progressed in her journey as a goalkeeper. With her background in netball, her coach in Kaki Bukit FC urged her to switch from striker to goalkeeper. However, she divulged that she preferred the striker position initially, itching for the opportunity to score goals. As the “last man”, the pressure is on her as she is the one who has to bear the brunt of the blame if the ball slips past her capable hands.
Now Wati takes on a mentor role to the younger girls in the team who are making the same journey to the National Team that she once made at the age of 19. She admitted to feeling the age gap with the younger girls and that it was initially challenging to communicate her game plans with them due to various differences.
But the stalwart custodian never stopped believing in her team: “I always tell myself to stay positive and to never give up on myself and the team. They are my team, I trust them.”
It is apparent that the team returns the faith she has in them. Priscilla Tan, who plays as a forward in the National Team, credited Wati’s strong rapport with the players for helping to gel the team, an aspect that she pointed out as crucial to a successful team.
“We can always count on her to crack a joke and bring laughter to the people around her. In fact, an inside joke our team shares is Wati’s opening line for our team huddles. Wati has started a team huddle with: “Okay, this is it guys…” for every game we played together. Now it’s caught on and is a running joke among us.
“But the cheery Wati we know off the field is completely different once the game starts. It’s not surprising to hear her shouting commands to the team once she is in the zone. But these two sides of her personality often makes for some funny moments.
“There was a game when Wati chided a defender for a mistake she made then turned and walked away. Barely moments later, she turned around and muttered: “Sorry” in a completely different tone. We had a good laugh about the drastic contrast in her tone of voice within mere seconds,” Priscilla described affectionately.
It is perhaps more important than ever for Wati to believe in her team with the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup 2018 qualifiers coming up in April. The team also aims to qualify for the Southeast Asian Games this year.
She hailed the Football Association of Singapore’s efforts in revitalising women’s football in Singapore, citing the growing number of teams in school competitions and the increased number of domestic and international competitions for both the National Team and the younger age-group teams as evidence of the growth in women’s football.
“We’ve been to Hong Kong and Malaysia for tournaments, Australia for a training tour and played a number of international games in Singapore. These games are a great opportunity for us because now we know where we stand, how we should improve as a team and how to manage the team in the right way.”
When asked what her family and friends thought of her playing for the National Team, there was no mistaking the delight in her voice to have them supporting her all these years. She revealed that her mother was at first concerned about the injuries she could sustain, but still whole-heartedly supported Wati in her pursuit of excellence in the sport.
Her tenacity has not gone unnoticed by her goalkeeping coach Scott Starr: “She’s got a lot of potential. She’s not the tallest keeper, but what she does not have in height, she makes up for with her ability to read situations and her hard work. She trains nearly four to six times a week and does not shy away from training. She’s got that drive and definitely that passion.”
Coach Scott has been guiding Wati for two years in the National Team. Earlier this year, he suggested that she could try playing overseas in the Sydney state leagues – but with her heart committed to the National Team and thinking of the sacrifices she will have to make, Wati is still mulling it over.
“I hope that in 2017, the Women’s National Team will win more games, become more well-recognised and that people will remember us for who we are. We have a lot of girls who are passionate about football. We need to play like how we did against United Arab Emirates in January (the match ended in a 0-0 draw) and aim to win,” she remarked thoughtfully.
Coach Scott is not the only one who recognises her aptitude with the ball – her friends nickname her “Wati Solo”, likening her skills to FIFA Women’s World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist Hope Solo, the American national goalkeeper.
Midfielder Angeline Chua, who has been playing in the National Team for 10 years, said: “My first impression of Wati was that she’s really tough and that she plays hard on the field. But off the field, she is really a humorous person and encouraging as well. She always reads her teammates on field and acts accordingly, and also always thinks about the team!”
“Her presence definitely has a huge impact on the team and I feel extremely safe whenever Wati plays behind me as she is a very committed and dedicated player. I know that I have nothing to worry about,” echoed defender Darvina Halini Deniyal.
Wati definitely lived up to her nickname with a superb performance on the first day of the Women’s Development Tournament, ensuring a comfortable 3-0 win for her team against an impressive Bangladesh team.
Coach Scott gave her performance a stellar review: “She was solid in the back, she kept it going and read the free balls well. Also, she put herself in situations where she made it difficult to get the ball past her which takes courage, and is an outstanding attribute to have.”
So while she admires Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo for their discipline and skills, it is clear that Wati herself is now also known for those very traits among her peers and coach. She still has more playing years in her yet and it is evident that she hopes to keep going.
“I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. Football is my passion, my life. That’s why I tell myself I will not give up and will keep on playing until I settle down or cannot play anymore,” she affirmed with a nod.