Sixty seconds with: Ali Riley

Ali Riley. Football Ferns Head Shots. Photo / Shane Wenzlick
Ali Riley. Football Ferns Head Shots. Photo / Shane Wenzlick

You were born in Los Angeles and have an American accent - how did you come to play for New Zealand?

My dad is from Christchurch and moved to America in his late 20s. I have never lived in New Zealand but have had citizenship since I was a baby. When I was in high school, we found out about the under-20 New Zealand team preparing for the 2007 World Cup in Russia so I sent in a highlights tape and got to go try out for the team.

So do you feel more Kiwi than American, or Swedish, where you have been playing the past four years?

Right now, I feel like a good mix of the three. Living in LA for the first 25 years of my life, I'm definitely an American but since playing with the Ferns and getting to know about New Zealand and its culture, I'm also a die-hard Kiwi. I'm becoming more and more Swedish.

Some have said you would have been good enough to play for the United States. Have you reflected on that decision to play for New Zealand?

It wasn't something I thought about until people started asking me. It's just not something you can look back on. Maybe the reason I became the player I am is because I took the chance to play for New Zealand. It's impossible to say what could have happened. I love playing for the Ferns and being a pioneer of the sport in New Zealand. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

You went into the draft for the US women's professional league in 2010. What's it like being bid for?

I will never forget that morning. It was so surreal. You feel like a piece of meat but that's professional sport. We want to be treated like the men and paid like the men so it's business. I think the US league has work to do in terms of players' rights when you don't really have a choice about where to go. That's fine in your first year. You want to have a little more control over your salary and what city you are playing in. It's truly a professional sporting moment.

You were 11 and 15 when the US hosted the Women's World Cup in 1999 and 2003. What impact did those two tournaments have on you?

The big one I remember is 1999, when the US won and Brandi Chastain ran around in her sports bra... That tournament was incredible and I was at the final. I was already into soccer at that point because in southern California, it's hard to find a kid who doesn't play soccer. At that time, I dreamed of playing for the US. I actually wanted to be a goalie.

A couple of years ago, you said you wanted to be an actress. How's that going?

It will never happen but I think it would be so fun. My new idea, because I'm really into cooking and I'm a health coach, is to have a show where I can make really good food and have other athletes on it.

I thought it might be making music videos because it's become a tradition with the Football Ferns.

The girls in the team are so hilarious that it became a thing. It's a way to help people get to know us better. Now I use those skills with my food blog. I hope we can do a good video for the Olympics.

You've been grouped with the US (No 1), France (3) and Colombia (24) so what is realistic in Rio?

We want the gold. You can't really go into a tournament wanting anything less. But if you look at our group, it's very challenging. I think we have the hardest group, so we didn't catch a break there. We have nothing to lose and few expectations around us, so the pressure will be off. It's going to be fun.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 09 Dec 2016 14:01:22 Processing Time: 480ms