It's a sad day for football in New Zealand today.

The retirement of Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg - accompanied by a stinging rebuke towards New Zealand Football - was a shock.

Erceg will leave a significant hole, and it's hard to imagine the Ferns at the 2019 World Cup without her.

Still only 27, Erceg has represented her country 130 times but will quit after next month's Cyprus Cup.


It's not a decision that was made lightly but Erceg has decided enough is enough.

Erceg said the Ferns are "undervalued" by New Zealand Football, saying they have failed to create and maintain an adequate high performance environment for domestic-based players.

"The girls need to be able to live and not be worried about paying the bills or where their next meal is coming from," Erceg told Radio Sport. "That is how a lot of the girls are living at the moment [and] it's not a high performance environment.

"It's not an environment that anyone should be living in really ... especially with the amount of effort that we put in."

Erceg, who made her debut in 2006 and has competed at three Women's World Cups, thinks there should be more recognition of the sacrifices made to produce results.

"I think we are a little undervalued," said Erceg.

"[In my time] we have gone up eight Fifa ranking places and had consistent results against top nations like Japan and Brazil.

"We are not looking for thousands or even hundred of dollars a week. We are just looking for New Zealand Football to take away our expenses so we can do our job."

"The [current] environment doesn't allow us to live. I've seen it for 12 years and not got paid. I'm not going to turn 30 and have nothing to show for the past 12 years of my life ... people need to walk away from this game with something."

Erceg will be sorely missed. She is arguably New Zealand's most influential player, tactically and technically.

"It's a watershed moment," said former Ferns captain Maia Jackman. "She is huge for that team. It's a bit like if [former All Blacks World Cup-winning rugby captain] Richie McCaw had given it away four or five years ago. I'd imagine her teammates are devastated."

The Ferns' failure to make the knockout stages at the 2015 Women's World Cup and the Rio Olympics put a significant dent in their High Performance Sport New Zealand money, with team funding cut and PEGS (individual performance enhancement grants) gone.

"We are trying to find a way to replace what we lost [with HPSNZ]," said NZF CEO Andy Martin, who added that the national body are constantly trying to bridge the gap between levels in the domestic game and the steep challenges faced overseas.

Martin also expressed his regret at Erceg's departure.

"It was a big surprise when we heard the news," said Martin. "She will be a big gap to fill [but] these things happen and you move on."