Women’s Asia Cup 2022: It’s all about space: in your head, on the pitch – and to grow

In this special series, we look back at the 2022 Women’s Asia Cup, through the lenses of those in the Singapore camp, diving deeper into their lived experiences at the tournament.

In this, the final piece of the series, we chat with 21-year-old defender Jolene Ng.She asserts that her eyes for hockey were opened wide in Muscat, giving her a new perspective that she has already changed her approach to competing under the red and white of Singapore.

In retrospect, her time in Muscat felt somewhat surreal.

At the 2022 Women’s Asia Cup hosted in the Omani capital from 21-28 January, Jolene Ng stood across the pitch from some of the world’s best hockey players, players who had graced some of the biggest stages of hockey and sport.

But there was also a deeper realisation, of her game, the game, and Singapore hockey’s place in the bigger picture, and how much more the sport can grow in the Lion City.

“Watching India play live was a bit of a dream come true – they were fourth in the hockey competition at the Tokyo Olympics, and they definitely lived up to things – the Indian players had impressive skills,” said the 21-year-old defender.

“And then we played against them, making the whole experience simply sensational for me. That game was a really good learning experience for me, and I must say, I’m more motivated to train harder and become a better hockey player.”

Photo Credit (Instagram – al_dhekra)

Jolene and the Singapore women fell 9-1 to India, then were edged out 1-0 by regional rivals Thailand before ending the tourney beating Indonesia 2-1 to finish seventh at the Women’s Asia Cup.

Even during the course of the tournament, it was clear that Jolene took onboard lessons learned in earlier fixtures – she was named the player of the match in Singapore’s final fixture against Indonesia, even scoring a goal that helped cement Singapore’s position on the continent.

“The feeling after scoring that goal – my first international goal for Singapore – will always remain in my heart. It has had a significant impact on me,” she said, recalling the moment with crystal clarity.

It played out in slow-motion in Jolene’s head: the ball bounced off Indonesia’s goalkeeper, Annur Amalia, and appeared to hang in the air for a moment. She said: “Without hesitation, I swung my stick at the ball and hoped it would not be ruled as dangerous play. I saw the ball go into the Indonesia goal, but I didn’t quite believe it until – I saw my teammates running towards me, cheering.

“It is a moment I will never forget.”

While that goal is carved into her memory, Jolene returned from Muscat with a whole lot more.

“International hockey is fast-paced, and to keep up, we cannot afford to dwell on any mistakes that we might make during the game,” she said.

“It’s very clear to me that it is important to have the right mindset: to continue fighting hard and not merely give up – and ensure that you don’t make the same mistake again.

“Also, I think it is crucial for every player to reflect on each game so that they continue to improve on what they did not do well and continue doing what they did well.”

It was perhaps that spirit that fuelled Jolene’s performance against Indonesia, and she is already looking towards the horizon.

“I thought we could have created more goal scoring opportunities against Indonesia, by having more connected passes, better awareness of space on the pitch, and by providing better support to each other, but I was delighted to end the tournament on a good note,” said Jolene.

“We worked hard to follow the game plan set out for the match, and if I can be honest, it was such a pity it ended so fast – we finally got to play a tournament after two years.

Photo Credit (Instagram – al_dhekra)

I still feel proud to have represented Singapore in the tournament – and it all still feels surreal.”