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Meridian win first B Division girls’ football title

With the memory of her team’s 4-0 loss to Queensway Secondary School in the 2022 B Division girls’ football final still fresh, Meridian Secondary School Nur Alysha Nasrina Naseri was determined to redeem herself.

The goalkeeper did so in the best way possible – scoring the first spotkick in Tuesday’s final before saving three in the shootout – as Merdian beat Tampines Secondary School 3-1 on penalties after the match had ended goalless.

“It felt great. I didn’t expect myself to save it. I just went for it, like wherever the ball went, I just went. Scoring felt great too,” said the Secondary Four student, 16.

When Alysha saved the final penalty from Tampines and sealed the victory, cheers erupted from the Meridian side of the spectator stand at Bedok Stadium while the jubilant players threw themselves into a pile in celebration.

Unlike the 2022 final, when Meridian played most of the game with 10 players after losing their goalkeeper Katheleen Foo to a red card in the ninth minute and going 1-0 down, the clash against Tampines was a much tighter affair.

Both defences excelled and limited any goal-scoring chances. Meridian coach Fabio da Silva said he made the decision to let Alysha take the first penalty after watching her during training.

“Today we came earlier to train, and then we planned for if it came down to penalties. We taught her some techniques for saving and also she has a very huge ability for taking penalty kicks. And she did very well with her attempt. She was one of the key players,” he said.

Losing the 2022 final spurred his players to work even harder, da Silva noted. “Of course everyone’s hungry. (Alysha’s) hungry. They said we want it, and that’s what we want to hear. So I said you want it, go for it.”

Meridian captain Siti Nurfarah Tahir, 17, said team spirit was the catalyst. She noted: “We’ve done everything together, we train every day. So I think from that we created a strong bond and chemistry and showed it on the field itself.”

The Secondary Five student, who has been playing football since she was six, explained that the team train for two hours after school every day and sometimes practise at the Pasir Ris Park on weekends.

The presence of their supporters, with chants of “let’s go, Meridian, let’s go” and “always by your side, Meridian” ringing out during the match, also played a huge role, she added.

Siti said: “That’s also the main reason why we’ve got the motivation. Everybody from the school came to support us. And they just kept cheering and cheering, even if we didn’t score, and it really hyped all of us up.”

Despite the defeat, Tampines coach Farhan Farook paid tribute to his girls for reaching the final for the first time. He said: “They gave their best effort, and I couldn’t ask for more. I hope to get more girls playing for the school in the future. Other than that, we cannot control the results.”

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