Netball: Winning 2015 SEA Games was highlight of my career, says retired Singapore international Chen Lili

SINGAPORE – After a decade of hounding attackers, national netballer Chen Lili’s towering presence will no longer be felt in the defensive circle.

The 1.96m defender has called time on her international career, which has seen her amass 82 caps since she was recruited from China in 2010 by Netball Singapore.

Chen cited the uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the main reasons for her decision to step away.

Before the outbreak hit, she had contemplated retiring after the now-suspended Asian Netball Championship, which was scheduled to take place in South Korea in December.

Unsure of when the next competition will be, Chen, who wants to pursue a career in teaching or coaching, felt that this was the best time to hang up her national jersey.

Admitting that retirement was a tough decision, the 30-year-old Chen told The Straits Times on Tuesday (July 28): “This has been my whole life for the past 10 years. I feel sad to leave my friends and Netball Singapore, and I will miss playing the games, but I will cheer for them from the side.”

When Chen arrived in Singapore in 2010, the Heilongjiang native only knew a smattering of English, with ‘hi’, ‘bye’ and ‘thank you’ being the only words in her vocabulary.

The former basketball player also had to pick up netball from scratch, but she was quick to learn the ropes.

In a career that has seen her compete at multiple tournaments, she counts victory at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil as one of her favourite moments.

“That was the first SEA Games gold medal for Singapore and I got to play with my friends. The crowd supporting us also made it very memorable,” she said.

She has also featured at the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney, the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia and four Asian Netball Championships.

Chen, the netball coach of River Valley Primary School, Yuan Ching Secondary School and Catholic Junior College, has applied to several local institutions to pursue a degree in Chinese Studies or Physical Education. She hopes to become a teacher in the future.

She has also been coaching for about six years and said: “I want to pass my passion to my students. I quite enjoy my time with the kids, teaching them skills and looking at them go from having no experience to playing.”

NS president Jessica Tan paid tribute to Chen’s contributions to the team: “She has been an integral part of the team and she will be missed, especially in defence. While she’s retired, we hope she will stay close to netball.”

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