Defending the Kiwis: Soccer's Ali Riley
Photo: David Gonzales/Stanfordphoto.com
By Sam Scott
Ali Riley, former Pac-10 women's soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year, played for New Zealand in the 2008 Olympic Games. She was the No. 10 pick in the first round of the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer draft. Riley, ’10, plays right wing-back for the New Zealand National Team, which opens the Olympic Games July 25.
First, let’s catch up. You went from Stanford to playing for FC Gold Pride in the Bay Area. But the league folded in May. What have you been up to?
There was a rat race to find a spot in the European leagues. I was fortunate enough to be picked up by LdB FC Malmö, one of the top teams in the Swedish league. The season started in April, and it runs through November with a break in the summer for the Olympics. I love Malmö, and I am having an incredible time. It is such a cool experience, although I definitely miss California. The league is really competitive, and the style is similar to what I am used to, but the language barrier has been a challenge. Nothing can compare to my WPS experience, but this is pretty awesome!
You’re a California kid whose dad is from New Zealand, and you play in the Olympics for that country. What was it like at the 2008 Games when you faced off against the United States, your other home nation?
It felt really strange to hear the [U.S.] national anthem being played and to see my friends—and Stanford teammates—on the other end of the field. But now that I have played with New Zealand for so many years, I think of myself as a Kiwi when it comes to soccer!
New Zealand takes on Great Britain two days before the official opening ceremonies. You’ll make the first impression of the 2012 Games.
I still can't believe that we drew the hosts and have the very first event! The atmosphere is going to be insane. It would be a dream come true to get the first win of the 2012 Olympics.
You’ve got a challenging schedule, facing the host nation and then powerhouse Brazil early on. What’s your dream outcome for the Olympics?
I think we have the most interesting and unpredictable group, which is a great opportunity for us. I dream of gold!
Who’s a player we should be watching for this summer?
Unfortunately, Brazil's Marta [Vierira da Silva] is the best and most exciting player to watch. It's going to be tough to contain her!
Besides your own competition, what are you looking forward to most during the Olympics?
I can't wait to go to the Village. It gives me goose bumps just thinking of it!
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