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SINGAPORE – Danelle Tan is only 18 but the teenager has already notched several milestones as she continues to blaze a trail in the sport.

On Sunday, the attacking midfielder became the first female Singaporean to play in a European football league when she came on as a half-time substitute for London Bees in their 2-1 defeat by Plymouth Argyle.

The Bees compete in the amateur FA Women’s National League South, the third tier of the women’s football pyramid in England.

Tan had been looking for an opportunity to test herself in English football since moving to London for her studies a year ago. She is studying at Mill Hill School, where she will sit her A levels in 2023.

She contacted the Bees for trials, impressed them and was registered soon after. She will play for them till the season ends in May.

Her latest step comes less than three months after she became the first Singaporean to be accepted into a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football programme in the United States, where she will be joining College of William and Mary on a part athletic scholarship in 2024.

She is also the youngest player to score for the Singapore women’s team after converting a penalty in a 2-1 loss to Timor Leste at the 2019 Asean Football Federation Women’s Championship. She was making her senior competitive debut as a 14-year-old.

Within the first few weeks of training, she has already been given a taste of what she can expect.

Tan, who is the youngest player at the club, said: “The players here are really mature and most of them are mothers.

“One of them is a bodybuilder. In training, I contested for a ball with her and I literally flew off the pitch. It felt like I was hit by a truck. I know that this stint is going to make me tougher… and also keep me motivated to improve my physicality.”

The Bees are affiliated to English league side Barnet FC.

While there, Tan will be able to tap on the experience of head coach Marie Hourihan, a former goalkeeper with Manchester City, Chelsea and Ireland; and club captain Ashleigh Goddard, who played in the second-tier Women’s Championship with Crystal Palace after spells in Cyprus and Denmark.

Tan is the latest Lioness to play abroad. In September 2021, defender Siti Rosnani Azman joined professional outfit International Athletic Club Kobe Leonessa, who are in Japan’s top-tier Women Empowerment League.

Midfielder Putri Syaliza Sazali is with Oakland University, while forward Summer Chong is on a scholarship at High Mowing School – both in the US.

On Sunday, Tan’s stint got off to a positive start. She started the move that led to the Bees’ equaliser.

With the club ninth in the 12-team table, she is motivated to help the Bees steer clear of the bottom-two relegation spots.

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She is also hoping to use the stint as a stepping stone in pursuit of her ultimate goal – to play professionally abroad.

“It is important for me to get game time at the senior level and I want to see if I can thrive at this level. My end goal is to play professionally; it may not be in England but at least in Europe.

“Meanwhile, this is a good platform for me to see where I am at and test myself against players in this division,” said Tan, who won the 2022 Deloitte Women’s Premier League with the Lion City Sailors.

She is aware that she is a trailblazer and hopes to be a role model for other aspiring female footballers in the Republic.

She said: “I have always known that the path I am taking is not one that has been treaded before. Every step that I take is breaking new boundaries and a good confirmation that I am heading in the right direction.

“I am far from where I want to be. But I hope these small steps will hopefully culminate in me playing professional football and inspire Singaporean girls who want to pursue the sport.”