Deslyn Siniu is an iconic figure in Papua New Guinea women’s football. A long-serving player and captain of the national team, Siniu has an international career dating back to 2003, which includes four Pacific Games gold medals, as well as three FIFA Women’s World Cup™ campaigns. During that period Papua New Guinea has comfortably been the leading force among Pacific Islands’ nations. And Siniu’s influence is such that U-20 captain Yvonne Gabong cites her as her main influence.
Unsurprisingly Siniu has revelled in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup being held in Papua New Guinea. Two days out from the tournament finale, Siniu shared with FIFA.com her views on the tournament and what it means for women’s football in the Melanesian nation.
FIFA.com: How have enjoyed the experience of having this tournament in Papua New Guinea?
Deslyn Siniu: It is just awesome to see first-hand the standard on display. You can see from the crowd’s reaction that this is new. It has been an awesome experience, and a truly enjoyable past few weeks.
What scope is there for women’s football to improve in PNG?
Papua New Guinea has the ability to be right up there with developed nations with the right preparation. The team improved over the three games. Given the opportunity to play quality teams they would rise further. There is a lot of potential here for women’s football. It is every girl’s dream to be able to see players like this perform. It means they can also dream that they can play like that.
How special was it for you to see PNG compete on such a stage?
This has been a wonderful opportunity. Seeing the ladies play against these big football nations has been wonderful, even if we lacked in some areas. They were brave enough to hold their heads up high and I’m very proud of them.
Scoring that goal (against Korea DPR) was a wonderful experience and good for those up and coming players who want to create history in the future. It was one of those moments where you think ‘I wish that was me’, but I was very proud of Nicole (Nicollete Ageva) who scored that goal, and the team showed the nation that we could play.
The crowd support both in terms of numbers and atmosphere has been superb. Has that surprised you?
We would normally get big crowds for the men’s games. But for this tournament the crowds have been really good. They have been behind women’s football throughout the tournament. I don’t think you normally see that in other countries. The spectators have really enjoyed every moment. Sport is popular in PNG, but I think it is this advanced level of quality, being on a World Cup stage, added with the promotion of the tournament has helped (draw crowds).
Did you ever dream that this kind of event could happen in PNG?
No, watching it on TV only! I never dreamt I would see such an event live in PNG. This has been such a boost to women’s football in PNG and to other women’s sports here as well. This will have a lasting legacy, and it proves we can host such a tournament. I hope this will help provide more empowerment and more support for women’s football. I also hope this will help provide a better pathway so that women’s players can be the best they can be.