Singapore footballer Danelle Tan on playing with unbeaten Borussia Dortmund women’s team and her love of chess

Why Danelle Tan turned down a top college offer

The route to Germany was a circuitous one for Tan, who was born and raised in Singapore – a country in love with European football, but also one where the local set-up struggles to produce many top-level talents.

She got into the sport because her two brothers joined a club and she would be left at home on Saturdays when they and her younger sister, too young to be left unsupervised by their parents, went to training. “I asked my parents one day whether I could join them. I started training with the club and I think in my first training session I scored 12 goals,” Tan laughs.

But coming through Singapore’s state school system, with its emphasis on studies, meant things began to “get a bit tricky”, Tan says, with her constant absences for tournaments with her club and the national team.

So at 16, she moved to London to pursue her football dream, eventually landing a contract with the London Bees. “Moving overseas was more a question of when than if,” Tan says. “I knew that if I want to play football professionally, I can’t do that [in Singapore].”

She did well enough for London Bees that she was offered a scholarship to the College of William & Mary in the United States, which had a women’s soccer program in Division I of the American NCAA collegiate sports system. Tan would, once again, be the first Singaporean to achieve this.

But Dortmund made an approach shortly after, leaving Tan with a dilemma.

“It was definitely a tough decision. I went to William & Mary, talked to the coaches, spoke to the players as well, and they were absolutely lovely – there was almost nothing that you could dislike about the school and the people,” Tan recounts.

“But it boiled down to the fact that Dortmund is really, really special. The fans, the city, everything about it, it’s just so special. And it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I always speak to my dad and my parents about this, that you can study at any time, you can get a degree when you’re 40, 50. But the time that you can play as a professional athlete, achieve your dreams as a professional athlete, is so limited.”

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