Despite being born and raised in Los Angeles, Ali Riley has represented the New Zealand women’s national team since 2007. She’ll do so again this summer at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand co-hosting the event with Australia.
Riley had dreams of playing for the United States women’s national team but shifted to representing her father’s home country when she was 19. She grew up not knowing that New Zealand had a women’s national team but her decision to play for the country was made simple upon learning about the Football Ferns.
“There was no choice. I was never choosing between two teams, I was choosing if I wanted to play for a national team or not at the time,” Riley said on the podcast Snacks. “And then of course, in retrospect, it’s so easy to say, what if. And I’m honored that people even think that there could be a what if or to think about things that could have been different.”
Riley played for the New Zealand women’s national team in each of the last three Women’s World Cups, captaining the side during the 2019 tournament. The Football Ferns have never won a game at the Women’s World Cup, something that Riley hopes can finally happen on home soil.
Above all though, she wants to be a role model for girls across the world and show them that sports can give you valuable life lessons.
“There’s so many things that I want to happen after this World Cup and it starts to feel like a lot. But I know that if one little girl is inspired to pick up sport that it will improve her life and have her experience some of the amazing lessons that I’ve learned and how much sport has helped me.”