Belfast Telegraph

Billie Simpson's Cliftonville wonder goal nominated for FIFA's Puskás Award alongside Lionel Messi strike

Cliftonville's Billie Simpson is going up against the cream of the world's footballing crop.
Cliftonville's Billie Simpson is going up against the cream of the world's footballing crop.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Cliftonville Ladies defender Billie Simpson is going up against Lionel Messi and more of the game's greats for one of FIFA's top awards.

The 27-year-old has been nominated for the Puskás Award for her sceaming strike in the Danske Bank Women's Premiership against Sion Swifts last summer.

There aren't many footballers audacious enough to try and score on the volley from their own half, directly on the end of an opposition goal kick.

Billie is and it's got her on to FIFA's 10-goal shortlist alongside the likes of Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Quagliarella and USA women's international Amy Rodriguez.

Then Glentoran forward Matty Burrows, you may remember, was shortlisted for the 2010 Puskas Award for a backheel volley against Portadown, eventually finishing runner-up to Hamit Altıntop.

After Simpson's goal last summer, we called for FIFA to note the Northern Ireland international's strike as she revealed it only came about thanks to disobedience to manager Martin Douglas' instructions.

"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 sometimes," laughed Billie.

"He was absolutely speechless when that one went in.

"Whenever we're training, if anybody hits the ball up in the air, I'll always try to volley it. 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. When you're going for a volley, it can come off your shin or your leg but if you connect properly, you know it's going to fly."

Coach Douglas had outlined the reasons why Billie's goal should be included in the list of the world's best.

"The video doesn't even do it justice. It's the cleanest strike you're going to see," he said.

"It reminded me of baseball when the ball is pitch and then it comes back at double the pace. That's the way she hit it.

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

"The previous season, she scored a free-kick from about 40 yards out in the cup semi-final and she also scored another volley from about 35-yards straight from a goal-kick."

How to vote for the 2018/2019 FIFA Puskas Award

The winner will be announced at FIFA's upcoming awards night on September 23, when the winner of the Ballon D'Or will also be unveiled. You can help put Billie on the stage in front of the world's elite by voting in the FIFA Puskas Award right here.

The vote will close on September 1, with the top three going forward for final selection by a panel of FIFA legends.

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