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SINGAPORE – While waiting for her train in Germany, Danelle Tan heard an announcement in German but thought nothing of it.

The next moment, her fellow commuters began moving to a different platform, leaving her confused. The Singaporean footballer, who had moved to Germany after joining Borussia Dortmund in June, realised later that the platform for her train had changed.

The 19-year-old has experienced her fair share of such incidents in her first six months living in Germany and adjusting to a new life.

But Tan, who attends German classes five times a week, with each session lasting 4½ hours, knows the path to becoming a professional player requires sacrifice.

She said: “That’s the thing about language – it seeps into every part of our lives, from going to the grocery store to trying to find some garlic, everything is in German…

“It’s these kinds of things that make moving to a foreign country with a foreign language daunting and hard but when my German improved, it became slightly easier.”

She also struggled initially during training, as she did not understand her coach’s instructions and basic commands like “man on” but quickly found support.

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One of her teammates, American Marah Tayeh, has been living in Germany for several years and helped by translating what was going on during practice.

Tan, who is the only Asian player in the squad, said: “Every team are different, and coming into the team as a foreign player is going to be different, but it gets better and better and my teammates have been incredible.

“Everyone at the club has been very welcoming and helpful in trying to get me adapted, assimilated into the club.”

Tan has been in Europe since 2022, when she moved to London to enrol in Mill Hill School because of its partnership with an English club’s academy. In February, she became the first Singaporean woman to play in a European league when she turned out for English third-tier side London Bees.

While in England, she had stayed in a boarding house. In Germany, she lives alone in an apartment, learning to be self-sufficient. She now enjoys cooking, whipping up the popular South Korean dish tteokbokki (rice sticks) without worrying about it being too spicy.

On the pitch, though, the 1.70m forward has made the transition seamlessly. She has scored 12 goals in 14 games and is already a key member of a team that sit undefeated at the top of the fifth-tier Landesliga. Dortmund have 37 points after 13 games, eight clear of second-place FC Bor. Droschede, who have a game in hand.

National footballer Danelle Tan’s first six months with Landesliga club Borussia Dortmund has been an eye-opening experience. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Many of her teammates have played in the second- and third-tier German leagues and training alongside them has helped improve the technical side of her game, Tan said.

The women’s team might be in the fifth division but Dortmund are one of Germany’s biggest clubs with world-class facilities. For example, Tan and her teammates get to work with the Footbonaut, a futuristic machine that fires balls at different speeds (from a manageable 50kmh to a daunting 100kmh) and trajectories to sharpen a player’s reaction, control and ability to multitask.

Living in a city that lives and breathes football has also been an eye-opening experience for Tan, who noted that the Dortmund logo is visible everywhere, with club memorabilia adorning the interior of many restaurants and pubs.

Even in minus 1 deg C temperatures, fans turn up to watch the club’s games. Dortmund’s women’s team were formed in 2021 and the club opted against purchasing a licence that would see them begin higher up the German football pyramid.

They started in the seventh tier, earning promotions in 2022 and 2023, and Tan hopes she can continue being part of the team as they work towards making the top division Frauen-Bundesliga.

Tan, who is back in Singapore with the season’s winter break lasting six weeks until mid-January 2024, is currently on a one-year deal with Dortmund. Discussions between her and the club are ongoing about extending her stay.

She said: “I’ve gotten to know my teammates well, built good chemistry with them and so that’s translated into good performances on and off the field…

“We’ve got a perfect record and hopefully we can sustain that. There’s a lot of experience and good players in the team, so I’m just trying to learn as much as possible and continue to improve together with the team.”