SINGAPORE, 8 JANUARY 2021 – Singapore Women’s National Team star Putri Nur Syaliza Binte Sazali has made history by becoming the first local female footballer to be offered an overseas athletic scholarship.
The attacker, who turns 18 in March, will depart for Cumberland University this Saturday after accepting a four-year scholarship offer at the private university in Lebanon, Tennessee in the United States.
There, Putri will enroll in a course to major in Sports Management and also turn out for the university’s team, known as the Cumberland Phoenix. The team participates in the Mid-South Conference Tournament of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and is preparing for the new season, which begins in mid-February.
Fuelled by her passion for the sport and keen ambition to further develop her skills abroad, Putri began to explore possible overseas football scholarships in the middle of last year with the encouragement from her “super supportive” parents. The process involved creating a video compilation that showcased her footballing abilities.
Putri focused her efforts on the US due to the robust collegiate sports system, but admitted she did not hold out much hope of getting positive responses. “To be honest, I didn’t rate my chances at all, and I just wanted to try my luck,” she told FAS.org.sg.
To her surprise, she received Cumberland’s offer in late September, having been attracted to their attacking style of play after watching YouTube videos of the team as part of her research. She also found that the school placed special focus on their athletes – a trait that she valued.
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While none of her family members will be able to accompany her due to travel restrictions brought about by Covid-19, Putri is excited about this next step in her footballing journey.
She is already a full international for Singapore, having made a splash on her debut in March 2018 – coming on as a substitute, Putri scored the opener in a 2-0 friendly against Maldives at the National Stadium. At 14 years and 353 days old, she became both Singapore’s youngest-ever debutant and scorer at international level. Those marks have since been eclipsed by Danelle Tan, another promising young Lioness.
Putri in action for her school, Queensway Secondary, in the B Division final in 2018.
Putri, who has since garnered five more caps, is determined to stay grounded but also hopes that she will be able to gain a top-level football education in the US, home to the record four-time Women’s World Cup champions. “I will take it slowly step-by-step but I really hope to make the most of my experiences aboard and hopefully do well enough to play professional football overseas one day,” she said.
While nervous at embarking on her new overseas venture, Putri is excited about the prospect of making new friends and also hopes that it will inspire others. “I hope that me being offered the athletic scholarship will spur and motivate other girls to pursue their passion in football since they now know that it is actually possible to achieve something like this,” she said. “We just need to work hard and have faith in ourselves, and eventually everything will work out well.”
Julie Teo, Head of Grassroots and Women’s Football, added, “We are very pleased that Putri received the scholarship through football into Cumberland University, as it does show that we do have the talent pool for women’s football, and it is definitely something for us to build on. It is also especially encouraging to discover the growing young talent in our country’s women football community, and I hope that this will inspire and motivate other girls to strive hard to achieve footballing success too.
“Putri embodies the perfect example of girls who want to pursue their passion in football whilst not neglecting their academics. We are looking forward to Putri’s return where she can add value to our women’s football community, together with our other players who are currently overseas.”
The FAS congratulates Putri on her achievement and wishes her all the best in her footballing and academic pursuits overseas!