She came so close. This evening, in the salubrious surrounds of the elegant Kongresshaus in downtown Zürich, Ireland’s Stephanie Roche was announced as runner-up in the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award for the year’s best goal.
Steph was pipped at the post by James Rodriguez, whose stunning volley for Colombia against Uruguay in the knock-out stage of last summer’s World Cup took home the top prize. Fair enough. Great goal. Rodriguez went on to sign for Real Madrid just after the World Cup, by the way, for a fee of around €80 million.
As for Stephanie, life goes on. She recently made the decision to leave her club Albi after six months in the southern French town, and will fly home from the swanky FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala no doubt weighing up what her next move might be. She is unlikely to be short of offers.
In the meantime, as disappointed as she must be, Steph can hold her head up high because she has entered unchartered territory – and done it all with a shrug and a smile. She became the first Irish player to ever make the shortlist for FIFA’s goal of the season – and the first woman on the planet to do it. She has amassed more than 5 million views on youtube. She has appeared everywhere. She has been the story of the past few months.
More importantly, her goal has probably done more for Irish women’s football – women’s sport in general – than anyone could possibly have imagined. She has shone a spotlight on the skill, dedication and determination that exists in women’s sport, all in the most thrilling way.
As we pointed out in our ’10 reasons why Stephanie Roche deserves to win the Puskás Award’ blog recently, it’s no secret that women’s sport still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, even if companies like Continental Tyres are helping to change that. Steph is also helping to change that, and female athletes everywhere should be proud of her.
But that’s not why she very nearly won the Puskás Award. Nope. The reason she very nearly won the Puskás Award, finishing ahead of Robin Van Persie and Diego Costa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and several other superstars in the process, is because she scored an absolutely brilliant goal – plain and simple.
It was a brilliant goal. Well done, Steph.