New Zealand captain Abby Erceg hits out at NZF in shock retirement
New Zealand women's captain Abby Erceg has launched a broadside at New Zealand Football while announcing her retirement from the international game.
Central defender Erceg says the Football Ferns aren't valued, nor adequately supported by the national body, prompting her retirement at the age of 27 as an act of protest.
United States-based Erceg made her New Zealand debut in 2006 and was named skipper in 2014. She has played 129 internationals and competed at three World Cups.
The side's annual High Performance Sport New Zealand funding was reduced in December after they failed to progress from the group stage at the Rio Olympics.
She says the players had already struggled to maintain high standards with minimal financial assistance from NZF.
"Due to the unfortunate and unfavourable circumstances within the organisation that is NZF, it is with regret and great sadness that today is the day that I announce my retirement from the international game," Erceg wrote on a social media account.
"Without being able to justify my involvement any longer, I will be stepping back in the hopes to create change for the current and future generations of NZ footballers."
Due to the unfortunate and unfavourable circumstances within the organisation that is nzf, it is with regret and great sadness that today is the day that I announce my retirement from the international game. Without being able to justify my involvement any longer I will be stepping back in the hopes to create change for the current and future generations of nz footballers. I will continue to enjoy a professional career at a club level which I still find great joy in and I look forward to taking on that endeavour in the coming years. I have encountered many personal successes within the international environment and it is sad that this is what's required to adopt change. I say thank you to anyone involved in my international career no matter how big or small your role was, you have helped achieve the successes that I have been so fortunate to find. Time to move on to places where female footballers are appreciated, respected and endorsed. I hope that nzf one day has this philosophy.
NZF chief executive Andy Martin says Erceg's comments came as a surprise and disappointment.
He says the team's funding level heading to Rio last August was the best it had ever been.
"The team has had significant opportunities -- and will do going forward -- to be at their best and compete with the best teams in the world at pinnacle events," he said.
"Investing in the Ferns is a priority for New Zealand Football as a result of the success they have had on the world stage and also the positive impact they have had on the women's game here in New Zealand."
New Zealand's climb to as high as 16th in the world rankings had played a part in the growth of player numbers by about 20 percent over the last six years, Martin added.
He praised Erceg's career, describing her as a Football Ferns "legend" and said he was sad she is retiring.
Erceg will end her career at the Cyprus Cup tournament in early March.
She will continue playing in the US National Women's Soccer League for the champion Western New York Flash, who have been rebranded as the North Carolina Courage.
"Time to move on to places where female footballers are appreciated, respected and endorsed. I hope that NZF one day has this philosophy," she said.