Ria Percival calls end to her international career after 166 games for Ferns

Football Fern Ria Percival has announced her retirement from international football.

Percival ends her illustrious 18-year international career after representing Aotearoa 166 times at senior level, more than any other female or male player in New Zealand football history.

Percival (34) appeared at four Olympic Games and five FIFA Women’s World Cups, playing her last game for the Ferns as part of the home tournament in 2023.

Contracted to London club Tottenham Hotspur, she is currently playing on loan for Crystal Palace.

Ria Percival’s statement

“It comes with a heavy heart that I’ve made the decision to retire from international football.

“It has been one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make, and it’s not been one that I’ve taken lightly but I feel that it is the right time for me. I have represented New Zealand proudly for the last 18 years and it has been an absolute honour.

“My journey started when I was 15 years old, playing in the U-20s World Cup in 2006. At 16 years old, I then stepped up to the senior team and that is where my football journey really took off … playing my first ever game for the senior team, then representing New Zealand at the World Cup in 2007 was a dream come true and one that many boys and girls grow up hoping to experience.

“As I look back (with many different emotions) and reflect on my time as a Fern, it’s been the biggest honour and a pleasure to have represented New Zealand at 5 World Cups and 4 Olympic Games. The journey I have been on with this team has been incredible and left me with many memorable moments and times I’ll never forget. ­­

Ria Percival at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

“Having the opportunity to represent my country for almost two decades, I’ve worn the shirt with pride, courage, commitment, dedication and gave everything that I have for my country.

“I’ve learnt so much and grown both on and off the pitch over the years, becoming a leader, role model, and mentor, inspiring my teammates as well as the next generation.

“To my Ferns family, a massive thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to have done it without you all and the support over the years; every single one of you will always hold a special place in my heart.

“To every former Fern that paved the way to allow me to chase my dreams, thank you. You made it possible for me to follow my dreams for many years as the game keeps growing and women’s football develops.

“Finally, the fans … the support which you have shown me throughout the last 18 years has been nothing less than incredible; we’ve shared these moments together and I am now becoming one of you cheering the team on from the stands, celebrating many more successful moments and creating more memories together.

“To the boys and girls who are dreaming of becoming a Fern, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can, with hard work, commitment, dedication and belief … anything is possible.”

Ria Percival’s football career

As a teenager, Percival won a league and cup double with Auckland club Lynn-Avon United, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the MVP award in the final of the National Knockout Cup (now Kate Sheppard Cup).

Since 2006, she has played at five World Cups and four Olympic Games.

She became the first New Zealander to play in the Football Association’s Challenge (FA Cup) Cup final in 2019 with West Ham United.

Her professional career has taken her to clubs including F.C Indiana in the United States, Ottawa Fury in Canada, FFC Frankfurt and FF USV Jena, before moving to England, where she’s played for West Ham, Spurs and Crystal Palace.

Percival was named in the International Federation of Football’s Oceania Dream Team in 2021.

She co-captained (with Ali Riley) the Football Ferns during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In the 2024 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to football.

READ MORE: Football features prominently in 2024 New Year Honours list >>>>

This story was first published on April 7, 2024.

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