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Danelle Tan sets aside college to join German giants Borussia Dortmund

The young striker has been a trailblazer for Singapore women’s football. When she was 12, she was called up to the Under-16 girls’ team. Two years later, she was recruited by the national team for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship and became the youngest player to score for Singapore at 14 years and 294 days when she netted on her debut against Timor Leste. She has since earned 20 caps and scored four goals.

In February, Tan became the first female Singaporean to play in a European football league when she turned out for London Bees in the amateur FA Women’s National League South. There, she scored twice in 12 appearances.

Now, her journey with the German giants beckons.

SINGAPORE –  It is a jersey worn by the likes of Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus, and now, a Singaporean will turn out in the famous yellow and black kit of German giants Borussia Dortmund.

The club announced on Friday that Singapore national women’s footballer Danelle Tan has joined their women’s team – the first Asian player to do so.

In July, the 18-year-old forward will join the team for pre-season training, which includes training camps in the German Alps.

Tan, who competed her A Levels at the Mill Hill School in London in May, was on the hunt for stints in Europe when Suresh Letchmanan, managing director of Dortmund Asia Pacific reached out with an opportunity. After meeting with Dortmund’s head of women’s football, Svenja Schlenker, she trained for a week with the team in February and received a proposal to join them permanently.

Tan said: “I feel incredibly blessed and privileged for such an opportunity and I hope to make the most of it. The club have ambitious plans and their massive fan base were big swing factors for me. I’m going to take this period to spend a lot of time on physical conditioning to make sure I’ll be ready as Dortmund climbs the leagues.”

While Dortmund’s men’s team are among Europe’s elites, their women’s side was only formed in 2021 and players are not on professional, full-time contracts. Tan joins on a year-long commitment and intends to stay for the long term.

First, she will need to help get Dortmund to the top division, the Frauen-Bundesliga. In 2021, they decided against purchasing a licence that would allowed them to begin higher up the pyramid. Focused on doing it the “Dortmund way”, the women’s team started from the bottom in the seventh tier. The club was promoted in 2021 and 2022 and will start the new season in the fifth tier Landesliga that will begin in August.

Tan added: “While some may think that joining Dortmund in the fifth tier represents a step down, I beg to differ. From the football, to the infrastructure to the marketing , you can see the plans unfolding throughout the club. The facilities are world class, the coaches are top notch... Dortmund is a special club and it is committed to building the women’s side and I want to be a part of that.”

Schlenker said Tan had won over the coaching team with her videos and during training sessions. The German added: “Danelle’s journey to BVB can be seen as an inspiration to young female athletes worldwide, showcasing that hard work, talent, and dedication can pave the way for extraordinary opportunities.

“Her determination and passion for the sport embody the values that we as a club stand for: teamwork, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence. Dortmund assures her that she will find a supportive and nurturing environment within the aspiring BVB Frauen team.”

In choosing to join Dortmund, Tan will forego her spot at the College of William and Mary (W&M) in the US, where she was slated to begin in January 2024. She was granted a part athletic scholarship by the college in November 2022 and would have been the first Singaporean to be accepted into a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I football programme.

She said: “Believe me, this was a very very hard decision to make. W&M is a fantastic school, with the coaches there being possibly the warmest and most welcoming individuals I’ve met. But Dortmund is a special club. When I went to the stadium and watched Dortmund’s men beat Chelsea in the Champions League, I got to experience how insanely passionate the fans are. The ‘yellow wall’ is the stuff of legend.”

Danelle’s father Meng Wei added: “Not only is it one of the biggest clubs in the world , it has ambitious plans for women’s football. What decided things for us is the tight family atmosphere they have. It’s important for us as parents that she is supported and that she is in good hands.”