Captain Ali Riley has become one of the biggest talking points for a multitude of reasons after the Football Fern’s historic win against Norway in their Fifa Women’s World Cup opener.
Firstly she led the team to a 1-0 upset over the Scandinavians and played one of the best games New Zealand fans have seen in a while. She delivered an emotional speech post-game that captured the hearts of her New Zealand and Californian-based fans of her club Angel City.
And now she has gone viral on social media for her subtle protest against Fifa’s rainbow armband ruling.
Before the tournament, Fifa ruled - like they did in the men’s World Cup - that players would not be allowed to wear rainbow armbands during matches, and that teams would face sanctions, including yellow cards, if they did.
The armbands, worn by male and female players in competitions around the globe, are a sign of support from professional athletes for the LGBTQ+ community.
After the governing body disallowed the bands for this year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup, they offered players an option to wear any of their eight new Fifa-sanctioned armbands that recognise social causes including “peace”, “zero hunger” and “inclusion”.
New Zealand skipper Riley was clearly not happy about the ruling so got creative in showing other support - painting her fingernails rainbow colours for the tournament.
The football community has given the Californian-Kiwi a big round of applause, as one hand is the colour of the Trans pride movement and the other is rainbow.
Social media users have taken to Twitter, one writing: “Ali Riley wearing rainbow nails I love her to death thank you.”
“Ali Riley was already a queen but the trans and rainbow nails bc Fifa are cowards? Iconic,” another said.
“Ali Riley deliberately getting the rainbow/trans flag nails in the shot to piss off Fifa, legendary behaviour.”
Popular TikTok users have also picked up on the protest, calling her a “straight, gay icon”.
Other users commented: “She’s just the coolest ever” and “I’m so damn proud to be a Kiwi right now”.
Riley responded on her own Instagram about her decision: “Nobody was going to stop me showing my support for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Teammate CJ Bott also praised Riley’s act.
“I think it’s such an incredible thing where she’s unable to wear... the armband in this tournament and she’s such an advocate,” Bott said.
“She’s definitely someone who uses her platform in such a positive way and we are also proud of her and the way she represents the LGBTQ+ community.
“We’re all backing her and we all back the community as well,” Bott added.