As the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team prepare to face Sweden in their first 2023 World Cup qualifier tomorrow evening, Sky Ireland went behind the scenes with WNT and Shelbourne midfielder, Jessica Ziu, to look at her journey from Rivermount Boys in Finglas, to wearing the green jersey.
“I grew up playing football on the streets with all the boys, no girls. I’m a bit of a street baller. You’d see the girls going out with make-up on and just drinking, and I’m not like that. I’m just always out with the boys playing football or I’m in with the dogs. They’re a big part of my life too. I never have time for anything. It’s just football, all football”, says the young star.
Jess Ziu’s passion for football began when she saw her brother playing for Rivermount Boys. At the age of 5, Jess became the first and only girl on the Rivermount Boys’ under-6s team, where her rise to the top began.
Crediting her youth coaches for her success and remembering her time with Rivermount Boys, Jess says: “The coaches I’ve had throughout the years have been so important to me. I’m here because of them. They helped me a lot and they let me be a part of Rivermount also. There’s a big sign that says ‘Rivermount Boys’. They always say we need to get ‘…and girl’.”
Speaking about becoming an international footballer, Jess says: “I’m really shy. I hate when people are watching, so when I did come on for my debut, it felt so weird with all my friends watching and people that knew me, but it’s something that I’m just going to have to get used to. I guess girls asking for shin pads and your football boots and your jersey… you don’t think you’re a role model for so many people.
“Every time the squad gets picked, whether it’s 20 to 30 girls, I’m looking at that and I’m like, I’m in the top 20 in Ireland. That gives me confidence and then when I go to training, I look around and I’m like, I’m obviously good enough to be here if I’m training with them.”
Speaking about the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Jess says: “Playing in a World Cup with your country, I think is everyone’s dream. It’s the biggest stage in the world. I think it would be unbelievable to go to a World Cup, so that would be a goal that I really want to achieve.”
Jessica Ziu has been named in Vera Pauw’s squad that will face Sweden tomorrow, Thursday, 21st October. Kick off at Tallaght Stadium is at 7pm, with live coverage broadcasting on RTE 2 from 6.30pm and live commentary on Off The Ball from 7pm.