Updated: Sep 27, 2022
Indonesian women’s football icon Zahra Muzdalifah is coming to South Shields FC as she looks to lead the way for her compatriots in Europe.
The 21-year-old has made 22 appearances for her country and is currently training with Indonesia’s most accomplished soccer school, Asiana Soccer School, which recently became an international partner of the Mariners.
Zahra is heading to South Shields this week to train with the club’s women’s team.
During her visit to UK, Zahra is to use the North East as her base and as well as training with the Mariners, she could also represent the team in matches.
An energetic striker, Zahra has a legion of fans across Asia and has just short of 1million followers on Instagram.
However, the women’s league in Indonesia has not been established due to the pandemic and Zahra was also denied a move to Europe after receiving an offer from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020, with the onset of COVID-19 scuppering the potential switch.
Zahra will now get the opportunity to follow her dream, having appeared at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday to confirm her imminent arrival in the UK.
Asiana Soccer School, based in Indonesia, is one of South Shields FC’s growing number of partner clubs and academies as it expands its global footprint.
The first international partnership meeting was held in South Shields over the weekend of the John Cooke testimonial in May, with representatives flying in from various parts of Asia, the Middle East and Europe to attend.
While together, they looked at key areas of collaborations such as Academy models, player experiences, coaching methods and sports technology, and had a glimpse at the club’s blueprint for the international expansion of its Academy, education model and international Academy plans.
South Shields FC executive director Glen Stidolph said: “Having Zahra come to visit the UK and train with us is a very important step in both our journeys.
“With a minefield of FA and immigration rules, many clubs much bigger than SSFC will not take any risks on players from South East Asia no matter their obvious talent, as hard winter months are frequently too much for some and they head back home to the warmer climate they are used too.
“Being with us in the UK for a longer period will hopefully demonstrate that Zahra has exactly what it takes to make that transition and I’d be delighted if our club can be that window of opportunity she needs to make it in Europe. This is the true meaning of collaboration.”
The collaborations extend beyond football and business is also very much on the agenda, with the football ties being used as a conduit to showcase North East businesses wherever the club has its partners.
As part of Zahra’s visit, the special trade envoys of the Indonesian Minister for Industry will be visiting South Shields between July 15th and 17th, and the club is liaising with the Department of International Trade, South Tyneside Council and business leaders to organise meetings that have a specific interest.
Stidolph added: “The Indonesian Minister for Industry is a signatory of COP26 and has a particular interest in green energy technology.
“The North East is recognised across the globe for its expertise in this sector, so it therefore makes sense to leverage the football relationships to create these opportunities and relationships as well.”
The club is looking forward to putting SSFC and the borough very much at the centre of strategic international attention over the coming months, but the immediate focus is making Zahra welcome, showing her around the borough and getting to know the best of the town.