New Zealand’s history-maker Ria Percival: “I am very honoured, humbled and proud”
Wed 18 March 2020, 11:00|Tottenham Hotspur
A humble Ria Percival was lost for words after she wrote her name into New Zealand’s history books last week by becoming the first player from the men or women’s national team to hit a remarkable 150 caps for her country.
The 30-year-old reached the momentous milestone while competing against Norway in the Algarve Cup with the Football Ferns, who finished fourth overall in the tournament in Portugal.
Already New Zealand’s record appearance-maker, she has shown the rewards of hard work, dedication, passion and commitment by achieving something that many females in football may only dream of.
“I can't really put into words what this means to me,” said Ria, who made her international debut for New Zealand against China in 2006 after appearing at the Under-20s Women’s World Cup.
“Every time I step on the pitch to represent my country it is an honour. Being part of the national team for 14 years, I have been here since the age of 16 and still remember vividly my very first game. To look how far I have come and what I have achieved is something I am very proud of. I am not one who likes attention and a fuss being made over me, but I am very honoured, humbled and proud to have achieved this milestone."
Having represented New Zealand at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China at just 17 years of age, last year’s World Cup in France signified her fourth time at the prestigious tournament.
"It hasn't been easy but it makes you realise anything, and everything is possible if you want it bad enough," Ria commented. “To be the first and only footballer, male or female, to reach this milestone so far really is something special. I hope my achievement gives females someone and something to look up to and work towards in each of their own football journeys. There are so many role models for young girls and I hope by achieving 150 caps, I can act as a paragon to them too.”
Grateful for the support from her loved ones, Ria dedicated her special achievement to all who have been on the journey with her to making history with the national team.
“I have so many people I want to dedicate this achievement to. First and foremost, my family, they have been my rock over the years and have always supported me throughout my whole career. I know I couldn't and wouldn't be where I am without their support, I get emotional just thinking of them and about this whole journey, knowing that they have been right with me all the way. I also have to mention my fiancée, I wouldn't be where I am without her support through thick and thin. A shout out has to go to my first club in New Zealand all those years ago, Lynn Avon United, playing in a women’s team and senior league at the age of 14 or 15 alongside national team players helped me mature and grow as a footballer. Last but not least is my Football Ferns family, we have had many highs and lows throughout the years, many memories created and shared that will stay with me forever.”
With 150 caps attained, Ria is focussed on what’s to come with New Zealand as she hopes to inspire the next generation of players coming through for the national team.
“For me, although it was amazing reaching a massive milestone, I also saw it as another game representing my country and striving and pushing towards our goals. I am just taking it year by year, being a senior player and having more of a leadership role in the team. My focus is helping the younger players coming through, to develop, grow to becoming the best footballers that they can be, but also off the pitch support and growth is massive, so I am trying to help them in any way that I can.”