Albion Rovers come from nowhere to take the title

Albion Rovers
Naomi Singehebhuye scored a superb goal in the final for Albion Rovers that saw her end up tangled in the net. (Luke Hemer)

By Lance Jenkinson

There was more to the title-winning Albion Rovers women’s team than met the eye.

The Rovers can boast about their status as the women’s state league 5 champions, but the journey to get there was just as impressive.

If you go back to the first day of the year, the team did not even exist.

The Rovers have struggled for years to get a senior women’s team up and running, but decided to think outside the square.

The club put in a call to a local organisation Football Empowerment, a not-for-profit organisation that uses its soccer program to empower youth of the west.

“It’s a community group that has an ambition to give everyone a platform to engage in the community,” Rovers coach Engano Singehebhuye said.

“We have various activities that we run and football is just one of them.

“We use football as the base to target young people to participate in the community, whether it be in education, job seeking opportunities and so on.”

The members of Football Empowerment overwhelmingly share one interest – soccer.

Most of the players had never been part of an organised team though. That all changed when the Rovers got in touch in the off season.

“The girls love football,” Singehebhuye said.

“Albion Rovers were struggling for years to get some girls to play for them, especially at senior level, so in early January they called me because they heard we run some programs with the women that are football-related and they asked if the women would like to participate more in a season-wise [competition].

“I said I’d pose the question to them and it didn’t take too long because the girls wanted to participate.” Not only did Albion have a team to field, they had a competitive team.

All the skills the players had learnt through the Football Empowerment program translated into a club environment.

“After a couple of weeks of good training, they got up to speed very quickly,” Singehebhuye said. “In the friendlies, we were beating teams by 10 goals.”

Albion Rovers went on to win the women’s state league 5 north-west title in its first season.

The Rovers finished with 40 points, one point clear of second-placed Kensington City and Keon Park. After securing promotion and the north-west title, Albion went on to play in the final of women’s state league 5 and won a classic 4-3 over Springvale White Eagles.

“It was a very tough match,” Singehubhuye said. “We were biting our nails at the end.”

It was only fitting that Anab Ahmed scored a double in the final. Ahmed was Albion’s leading goalscorer with 25 goals for the season.