Belfast Telegraph

NI woman’s goal talk of football world

By Gareth Hanna

Sometimes, turning a deaf ear to your coach can pay off, and when it does, it's usually spectacular.

That was definitely the case for Cliftonville Ladies defender Billie Simpson, who has catapulted Northern Irish women's football into the spotlight with one swing of her now famous right boot.

The 26-year-old scored a goal that has led to calls for a nomination for Fifa's Puskas Award, which is presented to the player who scored the best goal in the world during a 12-month period.

When you see her wonder strike, you can understand why.

Few footballers are audacious enough to try and score on the volley from their own half, directly on the end of an opposition goal kick. Billie is.

The Northern Ireland international's smasher against Sion Swifts in a Danske Bank Women's Premiership encounter on Wednesday has taken social media by storm and yes, it was definitely intentional.

We can be sure of that, because it's not the first time the Sandy Row star has tried it - much to coach Martin Douglas's frustration.

"Martin shouts at me all the time before kick-off, saying 'no 40-yarders', but I just get ahead of myself when I'm on the pitch," Billie said.

"He was absolutely speechless when that one went in. I just know that I can do it and if I connect with it, it could hit the net. If I don't, it could hit the corner flag."

It is that technique which makes it so special and well worthy of a spot at Fifa's top table.

"If I got anywhere near the award it would be great," said Billie, who has netted an impressive 14 goals from centre-half this season.

"I would be delighted, but I'd be freaking out as well."

Northern Ireland is no stranger to Fifa's Puskas Award.

You may remember Glentoran's Matty Burrows was nominated in 2010 along with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar.

After that, the Republic's Stephanie Roche finished second behind James Rodriguez in 2014.

Could Billie follow?

"What the video didn't show is that Billie took a quick free kick from the half-way line shortly after and it came off the underside of the crossbar as well," said Douglas.

"She's got everything. I also coach with Cliftonville Olympic, the men's reserves, and Decky O'Hara is always asking could we not shave her head so she could play centre-half for him."

Billie's strike is too late to be in contention for this year's Puskas Award - July 15 was the cut-off - but don't be surprised if it is back in the headlines next summer and nominated for Fifa's public vote.

Belfast Telegraph

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