[Featured Image: Jing Wen (left) and Soccer Girl Goals Co-founder Stef attending the semi-final match of the Women’s World Cup 2023 between Australia and England]
By the SMU School of Accountancy
Football fever from the FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) 2023 may have cooled, but for one dedicated Singaporean fan, it renewed a fresh passion – to enhance the visibility of women’s football in Singapore and Asia.
Puah Jing Wen, an SMU School of Accountancy alumna and a Senior Business Development Advisor at Asia Market Entry, is also the co-founder of ‘Soccer Girl Goals’. The initiative aims to promote women’s football in Asia through storytelling, social media, and collaborations with fans, athletes, and supportive brands. Jing Wen also actively plays for the Geylang International Football Club in the Singapore Women’s Premier League, and sits on the Women in Sport Committee formed under the Singapore National Olympic Council.
“Soccer Girl Goals is all about increasing visibility of women’s football in Singapore and Asia. Growing up, my co-founder Stef (Stefanie Dana Oh) and I were always told that girls couldn’t play football. In Singapore, where women’s football is still considered niche and international matches are seldom accessible on free-to-air TV, we could not imagine a world where people would turn up to watch women’s football games, wearing their favourite female footballers’ jerseys to cheer their hearts out for their favourite teams. Everything changed when we experienced this first-hand at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. We saw that it was indeed possible – and we wanted to do our part, however small, to help women’s football grow.”
Jing Wen firmly believes that interest can only flourish with access. Her interest in football was piqued in secondary school, but the absence of a football club then limited her opportunities to explore this passion. Despite numerous proposals to establish a football club in their school, their requests were unfortunately rejected. Undeterred, Jing Wen and her fellow enthusiasts began to explore other options outside of school. Interestingly, this led to Jing Wen’s first encounter with SMU and her first taste of playing competitive football at just 15 years old.
“When we came across the one-day female-only football tournament, ‘SMU Diva la futbol’, we decided to give it a go. We were among the youngest teams, and our first attempt didn’t take us far, but it was an eye-opening experience. For the first time in our lives, we were surrounded by many other girls and women who shared our love for football.”
Jing Wen’s affiliation with ‘SMU Diva la futbol’ continued into her tertiary years. “It was a full-circle moment when I became part of the organising committee of the tournament in 2013. I also emceed the 2014 tournament, and a scene remains etched in my memory: I recall standing on stage and looking down at the participants – a mix of familiar and fresh faces. I couldn’t help but wonder how many female footballers we would inspire that day.”
Jing Wen (2nd from right) and her football friends at the WWC 2023 opening match in Auckland
A balancing act
While in the SMU School of Accountancy, Jing Wen not only played for SMU’s women soccer team but also took on three other CCAs. She quickly realised the challenge of balancing all these commitments and had to learn time management the hard way.
“I learnt a tough lesson early on in university when I took on too many commitments and struggled to deliver on any of them adequately, whether it was turning up for my CCAs, or getting the grades I wanted.
Needless to say, balancing sports, CCAs and school wouldn’t have been possible without the support from my professors and my coaches. While most varsity competition schedules were after school hours, I did have to seek permission from my professors to miss a few classes and they were mostly supportive in providing alternative dates of classes for me to attend.”
Today, Jing Wen manages her full-time job and her passion for football with fresh perspective and the support of her employer, Asia Market Entry.
“My rule of thumb now is to use the 80/20 framework, and to ensure a core purpose guides my decision to start or participate in any projects. That way, when blockers arise, it’s easier to decide on whether to stop, pause, slow down or continue the projects.
At Asia Market Entry, my team has always supported my sporting pursuits. Most recently, I was nominated by the Singapore National Olympic Council to attend the prestigious 63rd International Session for Young Olympic Ambassadors in Greece. Despite a scheduling conflict between the event and an ongoing project, I successfully fulfilled my work responsibilities while in Greece, thanks to the team’s understanding and our effective management of time zone differences.”
Championing women’s football
The supportive culture at her workplace extended to her attendance at the recent WWC games. From the opening match in Auckland to the Finals in Sydney, Jing Wen managed to catch no less than nine matches. Beyond spectating, she also joined the Fan World Cup, a mixed gender, 8-aside tournament organised for travellers and supporters of the game.
Jing Wen attempting a penalty kick at the Fan World Cup
“The experience was truly amazing, exceeding my expectations. My most memorable match was the semi-final between Australia and England. The stadium was a sea of gold, the co-hosts Australia’s colour, and some fans even painted their faces gold and green. The Australian Women’s National Football team’s jersey was also spotted everywhere from the streets in the suburbs, on public transport, to the airport lounges. It’ s evident that the team’s performance in WWC 2023 left an indelible mark on Australia.”
Elaborating on her immersive experience in the Fan World Cup, Jing Wen describes an exciting final match, “I played for Team USA and we made it to the Finals, but after a nail-biting penalty shootout, we finished with the silver medal. Regardless of result, everyone had a blast emulating the iconic goal celebrations, pre-game warm-ups, and even pretending to bury our heads in the ground after a loss.”
Jing Wen (front row, first from left) and other players of the Fan World Cup match
A drive for progress
With the WWC 2023 behind her, Jing Wen is more determined than ever to contribute to the local football scene. While Singapore has made strides in women’s football, she believes there is room for improvement.
“I’m happy to see that girls today have more opportunities to play football in school and even options to pursue it more seriously. However, in comparison to our Southeast Asian neighbours, Singapore has yet to even qualify for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup to compete for world cup qualification. This gap in progress affects how the women’s game is viewed in Singapore.”
When asked about her vision of a significant milestone for women’s football team in Singapore, Jing Wen reflects, “I imagine a day when I tell my friends that I’ve just watched the World Cup, and their immediate response is, ‘was it the men’s or the women’s?’”