Ali Riley

Ali Riley interview on Women’s Soccer United.

Ali Riley: “To be a part of this movement, to be a pioneer – this will be my greatest achievement in my football career”

We speak to New Zealand Football Ferns captain Ali Riley on what is an historic week for women’s football.

Just two days ago (Tuesday 8 May 2018), history was made with the announcement that New Zealand Football and the New Zealand Professional Footballers’ Association (NZPFA) reached a landmark agreement on equality and parity for their senior men’s and women’s national teams.

The news was positively received around the world as the women’s game took another huge step forward with thanks to the help from players of New Zealand who fought for change.

Ali Riley is one of the biggest personalities on the global stage of women’s football, her smile and love for the sport is evident and infectious, former NZ Football Ferns coach Tony Readings once described Ali as ‘the heart and soul of our team’.

Riley’s passion for the sport is just as clear on the pitch where she gives 100% in every game and is a great asset to her team providing solid defence as well as using her pace to burst down the wing to initiate forward attacks.

In an exclusive interview with Women’s Soccer United, the New Zealand international and FC Rosengård fullback, Ali Riley, talks about how the negotiations of this landmark deal took place and the role of herself and other players in proceedings, her thoughts on the agreement as well as what impact it will have on the sport as a whole.

Women’s Soccer United: Did you and your team-mates know that there were negotiations in process that could lead to such a significant boost for women’s football in your country?

Ali Riley: Yes, we have been fighting for this since the negotiations started around November of last year. Both the men’s players and women’s players have been vocal in urging NZF and the PFA to come to this agreement.

Women’s Soccer United: How were you told of the announcement?

Ali Riley: The PFA has kept us updated throughout the entire process. We had been anxiously awaiting the result, as this is a historic achievement. We knew in the beginning of February that an agreement had been reached, and we had a chance to go over the new terms on our Spain tour. It’s a thrill that it’s now official and we can announce it to the world!

Women’s Soccer United: What were your initial reactions when you heard the news?

Ali Riley: This is a huge deal. While the only major difference is the equal travel, the symbolism of having a completely equal contract is a big statement. We were inspired by the efforts of the US, Danish, Swedish and Norwegians teams, to name a few, and I hope that our achievement will continue and accelerate the movement for female athletes around the world.

Women’s Soccer United: In your opinion, what impact will this historic agreement have on the sport at all levels?

Ali Riley: Every time women’s football is mentioned positively in the media we take a step forward. Now little girls in NZ can grow up knowing that if they represent their country in football, they will be treated with equality by their federation. This is a message we should be spreading to all facets of society, not just football and sport.

Women’s Soccer United: When you first started playing football, did you ever imagine what you would achieve both on a personal level in your career – and on how far the game has developed and improved?

Ali Riley: When I was little I didn’t even think I would play for a National Team, let alone captain one and play in World Cups and Olympics. When I started playing professionally and internationally I dreamed of medals and trophies, and I still do, but I have also considered what kind of legacy I want to leave as a person and a player. To be a part of this movement, to be a pioneer- this will be my greatest achievement in my football career. I’m not saying we are done yet, as there is more to fight for- but I can say that we have already taken women’s football to a place it hasn’t been before.

Women’s Soccer United: New Zealand Football Ferns are playing Japan next month for an international friendly match. How important are these competitive fixtures to help you prepare for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 qualifiers?

Ali Riley: This is a big chance to not only play a top team, but to celebrate this agreement. We are still in the beginning phases of our preparation for France, getting used to a new coach and new playing style. The growing pains will certainly continue into next year, but to play a team of Japan’s calibre in June will certainly get us ready for our Oceania qualifiers in November. We don’t have as many chances to play together as other teams, so we have to make the most of every opportunity.

Big thank you to Ali Riley for taking the time to answer our questions.

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