Irish soccer star Stephanie Roche, the first Irish player to ever be nominated for the FIFA Puskás goal of the year, has made it to the final three. She is the first woman ever to do so.
On Monday the International Football Federation (FIFA) announced the three finalists for the Puskás prize for best goal of the year. The annual prize is awarded in memory of the Hungarian striker for Real Madrid, Ferenc Puskás.
The finalists are: James Rodriguez of Colombia, for his World Cup goal against Uruguay, Robin van Persie for his World Cup goal against Spain, and Stephanie Roche for her awe-inspiring volley against the Wexford Youths when she was playing with Peamount United in Ireland’s National League.
You can vote Roche into first place by visiting FIFA’s website here. The winner will be announced on January 15 at the FIFA Ballon d‘Or ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.
The longlist for the award was announced in November, with Roche the only woman up against Tim Cahill of Australia, Diego Costa of Spain, Marco Fabián of Mexico, Zlatan Ibrahimović of Sweden, Pajtim Kasami of Switzerland, Camilo Sancezzo of Brazil and Hisato Satō of Japan, in addition to Rodriguez and van Persie. Roche was the first ever Irish player to be nominated for the award.
After releasing the names of the final three on December 1, FIFA shared the stats for its site visits from social media, showing Ireland and Colombia to be fierce campaigners for their players.
Voting before 1st #Puskas Award deadline yesterday mirrored in http://t.co/FWJJAgQOHB SM traffic. Big Irish backing. pic.twitter.com/f0ViJMpjEJ— Alex Stone (@AlexStone7) December 2, 2014
The circumstances under which Roche scored her amazing goal could not have been more different than those of her co-finalists. While Rodriguez and van Persie wowed millions of fans around the world and stadiums full of people in Brazil, about 95 spectators witnessed Roche’s goal, and it was only captured on camera because the manager of Wexford, the opposing team, had arranged to have the game filmed.
FIFA’s description of the goal reads: “When the ball came towards Peamount United forward Stephanie Roche against Wexford Youths, she had her back to goal, yet three touches later and without the ball touching the turf, it was in the back of the net. With her first touch she controlled it masterfully, before producing a dink over her marker’s head, spinning and unleashing a magnificent volley.”
After learning she made it into the final three, Roche told Sky Sports "It is always a good step to see women nominated for the Puskas Award and this is the first time one has been in the top three.
Stephanie Roche Makes Puskas Top 3 from Football Association of Ireland on Vimeo.
"I am obviously proud as a woman but I am just proud as a footballer to be recognized at this level and for FIFA to see it as a good goal."
The 25-year-old Dublin native currently plays for French Division I team ASPTT Albi.
Her aunt, Eileen Roche, who lives in Rome, told IrishCentral that the family is experiencing "a tidal wave of emotions and pride. Stephanie really is a great girl, and passionate about football; for her football is serious business. I remember well the first time she performed the 'rainbow kick' (also called the reverse flick-over) for me in the garden showing great talent, she was about 15 at the time.
"This recognition is a dream come true. It's Christmas in advance! Stephanie has worked hard to get where she is now. Obviously she has great support from all the family and especially from her father Fergus, who has sacrificed his weekends for many years to follow her career, at home and abroad with the national team.
"Now we need an infinite number of 'Santa letters' to make a young girl's dream come true while making history at the same time."