Women rule in touch footy
FINANCIAL planner Rebekah Song juggles several roles in her life.
Besides going to work, she volunteers fortnightly at a care centre. The 23-year-old is also an active participant in the touch-football scene.
"I love the adrenalin rush and accomplishment when I break through the line, dive to score a touchdown or dive to touch an opponent," said Ms Song, who picked up the sport 61/2 years ago as a junior-college student.
Ms Edna Ng, a 31-year-old marketing manager, loves the camaraderie that touch football can bring. She has been an active participant in the sport for 15 years.
"Every weekend when I head out to the fields after a long and busy work week, the stress and fatigue just melt away after a good run in the field with my teammates," she said.
Touch football has become a hit among women, with players who range from company directors to school teachers.
The sport, often thought of mistakenly as a subsidiary of contact rugby, has come into its own in the last few years.
The sport's governing body, Touch Football Singapore (TFS), an affiliate of the Federation of International Touch, got its start in 2000. Back then, there were only three teams.
"The game has grown significantly and continues to grow," said Mr Bryan O'Connor, director of TFS.
To date, there are approximately 2,200 players participating annually in TFS competitions, which see the participation of polytechnics, universities, junior colleges, international schools and social clubs.
"Touch football is a sport for everyone. It doesn't matter whether you're small or tall, as long as you have quick hands and good speed," said Ms Beatrice Chua, a 21-year-old touch-football enthusiast playing for her university and a social club.
The sport is traditionally a male sport, and has a general 6:4 ratio of male to female players internationally. Not so in Singapore, where the sport is dominated largely by women, with around 60 per cent of TFS-registered players being female.
"Its positioning as a girls-only sport is unique to Singapore, and, in time, will change. Singaporean youth call it a 'girls' game' at school," said Mr O'Connor.
"Female players make up a larger percentage of players in Singapore. This could be due to more opportunities for female students in local tertiary institutions to pick up the sport and take part in competitions," said Ms Alvinia Ow Yong, 26, captain of the national Women's Open team at the 2011 Touch Football World Cup. She said that many tertiary institutions like polytechnics and junior colleges have female-only official touch-football competitions.
Ms Karen Tham, a member of the Women's Open team, noted that the sport is actually "accessible across all ages and genders".
The standard of Singapore's national touch-football teams has risen over the past decade. Teams were sent to represent Singapore in four World Cup championships: To Australia in 1999, Japan in 2003, South Africa in 2007 and Scotland in 2011.
The Singapore Women's Open team came in third at the 2011 World Cup, beating teams from France, South Africa and Britain.
Mr Terence Toh, a 25-year-old member of the Men's Open national team, is hopeful that as awareness of touch football rises, the sport will see more male participation.
"I truly believe this is a sport we can contest in internationally," he said.