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Danelle Tan, a Singaporean football prodigy, has impressed with her exceptional talent and ground-breaking achievements

  • Tan became the youngest goalscorer in Singapore, both male and female, and the fifth youngest in the world, at the age of 14

  • The midfielder joined London Bees club in 2023 and became the first female Singaporean to play in a European football league match

  • Tan will represent US club William and Mary Tribe Women’s Soccer in 2024, becoming the first Singaporean in the NCAA Division 1 programme

Danelle Tan has been making waves in Singapore football. At the age of 18, she has already accomplished a few feats and broke a few records and Singapore football fans are hoping that this is just the beginning of her journey.

Tan is a true football prodigy who has defied age and expectations. From a young age, Tan showcased an exceptional talent for the sport, capturing the attention of the footballing community and leaving her mark on the global stage. Born on October 25, 2004, Danelle Tan’s journey in football began at the tender age of six when she joined her brothers at the renowned JSSL academy in Singapore.

It was evident from the start that she possessed a natural flair and a hunger for success. ““I felt a bit lonely at home … so I asked my parents whether I could join,” Tan said. In her very first session at the academy, Tan astonishingly netted 12 goals, leaving her coaches and teammates in awe.

As the years went by, Tan’s star continued to rise. At the age of 12, she secured a spot in the Singapore U-16 team in 2017, becoming the youngest player in the squad. Her remarkable talent was soon on full display, as she scored her first goal for the age-group national team in September 2018, propelling them to a resounding 4-1 victory over Tajikistan. Just a few days later, she achieved another milestone by netting a hat-trick in a commanding 4-0 win against the Northern Mariana Islands.

Tan’s exploits did not go unnoticed, and the attacking midfielder quickly made her debut for the Singapore U-19 team in October 2018, despite being only 13 years old at the time. Although the team faced an 8-0 defeat against Jordan in the 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship qualification, Danelle Tan’s inclusion at such a young age showcased her exceptional abilities and potential.

Tan soon received a call-up to the senior national team, making her debut on August 16, 2019, at the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship. In a heart-breaking 2-1 loss against Timor-Leste, Tan managed to etch her name in history by scoring a last-minute goal, becoming the youngest goal scorer in Singapore, both men and women, and the fifth youngest in the world at the age of 14.

While Covid-19 brought the world to a halt in the next two years, it didn’t blunt Tan’s skills. In 2022, Danelle Tan continued to showcase her skills, this time in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Tri-Nations series, where she played a pivotal role in a remarkable 6-2 victory against Seychelles, scoring two goals and providing an assist. Her outstanding performance earned her recognition as one of the three best players in a narrow 1-0 defeat against Papua New Guinea.

While Tan’s prowess on the international stage garnered attention, her club career also flourished. In early 2022, Tan relocated to London, where she enrolled at Mill Hill High School. What made her journey even more remarkable is that she became the first female player to join the school’s football team, breaking barriers and challenging norms along the way.

With the school having no girls’ team, Danelle Tan made the bold decision to join the boys’ side, fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead. She understood that she needed to match the physicality and speed of the boys, forcing her to think faster and make quick decisions on the field. She was determined to push herself to the limits and she reaped the benefits of her hard work in 2023 when she joined London Bees.

The midfielder soon went on to become the first female Singaporean to play in a European football league match on February 7, 2023, when she came on as a half-time substitute for London Bees in their 2-1 defeat by Plymouth Argyle in a FA Women’s National League South match.

Tan, though, has already announced her commitment to the US club William and Mary Tribe Women’s Soccer in 2024. This made her the first Singaporean footballer to be accepted into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Division 1 football programme, one of the top football programmes in the United States. This ground-breaking move not only solidified her status as a rising star but also provided inspiration to young Singaporean girls who aspire to follow in her footsteps.

However, Tan’s journey has not been without sacrifice. Leaving home at a young age to train and study in London, she has faced the challenges of being away from her family. The seven-hour time difference and the absence of familiar faces have tested her resilience. Yet, she finds solace in the support of her friends and the taste of home through shared meals of microwaved dinners, especially the beloved fried rice that brings her joy.

In her style of play, Danelle Tan draws inspiration from the lethal Arsenal striker Vivianne Medema of the Netherlands. “She’s a lethal striker and just a pure goal scorer. I try to watch her movement and incorporate it into my game whenever possible,” she says.

Anyone who has seen both Miedema and Tan on the pitch would be able to see the similarities, right down to the hairband worn on the wrist. Whether that was deliberate by Tan is up in the air, but what’s certain is that the dribbling and cut-ins do emulate the Dutch No. 9.

Tan’s self-discipline has no doubt contributed to her success on the pitch as she trains tirelessly, even joining the U-18 boys team for additional sessions to enhance her skills. Immersed in the competitive training environment of England, she has learned to be more aggressive and quick-witted, always striving to perform at her best.