Devoted mum of two shows true grit, knee injuries no hindrance to football

Last week, as part of the Back Passt X Balestier Khalsa ‘live’ show, I had the pleasure of speaking with Balestier Khalsa FC’s women’s head coach, Ratna Suffian, and captain Mastura Jeilani.

Ratna is also the assistant manager for the Singapore national women’s team that took part in the recently-concluded South-East Asian Games, while Mastura is also the assistant manager of the national Under-14 team.

There was a greater buzz around the start of the Women’s Premier League last week after a long absence. Deloitte is a title sponsor for the league.

As part of Singapore’s ‘Unleash The Roar’ programme, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) signed a cooperation agreement with the Federation Francaise de Football (FFF). As part of this agreement, both parties will collaborate on the development of women’s football. This has added to the buzz.

However, for the Balestier Khalsa women’s team, it was not an easy preparation, as when they started training sessions last November, they were only allowed to train with five players in a grid, and the players couldn’t intermingle.

It was only when the government lifted Covid-19 restrictions in April that they were able to train normally.

Ratna had gotten wind of the restart of the league and immediately called up players he trusted to join the team. These players have been playing for him since they were together at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) East.

Pre-pandemic, they had played for a team called Simei United and were now inherited by Balestier Khalsa, with the addition of several fresh players in the team.

Ratna and Mastura are pleased with how the team has done in pre-season, and the head coach feels that it is heading in the right direction.

The only match that stuck out like a sore thumb was the heavy defeat to Tiong Bahru FC. Ratna felt it was good that it took place pre-season, so that he has time to correct the team’s weaknesses.

That defeat also fired up the team to start the season on May 28 against the same opponents. Balestier Khalsa was looking for revenge. Sadly, revenge was not what they got, as both teams had to settle for a goalless draw.

Ratna has set the team an ambitious objective of finishing at least in the Top Three in the league. Both head coach and captain have identified the affluent Lion City Sailors team as their main challenger and are eager to face them in the league.

Ratna was a former S-League footballer, but he developed a love for women’s football after he got into coaching at ITE.

Mastura, though, had to overcome two bad knee injuries, in between giving birth to her second child. She nearly called it a day but received support from her husband who transformed a room in their HDB flat into a gymnasium so that she could recover and regain her fitness.

Her close friends also played an instrumental role in encouraging her to keep exercising and not give up. On the back of her hard work, she got back into the national team for the SEA Games and is now captaining her team in the Premier League.

Stories such as this are an inspiration for all women to not give up living their lives and to keep taking care of their health and fitness.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.