Football: Indonesia icon Zahra vows to make impact in Japan WE League

Indonesian star Zahra Muzdalifah is set to become the first footballer from the Southeast Asian nation to play in the WE League, Japan's top-flight women's club competition.

Cerezo Osaka have signed the 22-year-old striker from England's South Shields ahead of their entry into the professional league from the 2023-24 season. By adding the high-profile player, who has more than 900,000 followers on her Instagram account, they hope to increase their recognition in Asia.

"In my opinion, I have power, I have strength, I am aggressive and I think I can use that for this team and can win the game," Zahra told a press conference in Osaka in early July.

With the exception of Zahra, Cerezo's players are products of the club's own youth system.

"We are a young team with an average age of 21," senior club official Masamichi Saeki said. "I know it's not easy, but we want to be a team with a chance to win the championship in three years."

Cerezo's squad depth has been strengthened by a number of former youth players returning from other clubs in order to play in the WE League.

On playing in Japan, Zahra said, "I'm very happy and very proud of myself."

"I'm going to give my best for this team, and I will bring this team to the championship."

In a sign of the special attention given to her signing with Cerezo, Indonesian government officials attended a press conference in Jakarta, also held in early July.

Saeki said, "Zahra has a positive personality, so we are talking about promoting ourselves."

The initials "WE" in the league's name stand for "women empowerment," with the league aiming to play a leading role in women's social advancement.

© Kyodo News