Abby Erceg announced her retirement from the New Zealand Women’s National Team Monday afternoon. The midfielder served as the team captain for the Western NY Flash last season and has the most caps of any New Zealand international. Despite leaving the national team, Erceg will be continuing her career with the NC Courage.
In a statement that she posted to Instagram Erceg said, “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.”
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.
The veteran midfielder, who represented New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Tournament, further detailed her reasons for leaving the team in an interview on RadioNZ. In it Erceg discusses that a disparity has emerged on the team between professional players who are paid a good salary by clubs overseas and her teammates who are not on club teams or play as semi-pros.
“We've now left half of the team here who haven't been as fortunate with those circumstances so the stresses of living have now had an impact on their performance as a player...we get this gap within the team, where the ability of the professional players obviously can't be met with half the team who haven't been able train at that level.”
Perhaps providing insight into why the situation led to her retirement, Erceg noted that the New Zealand Football Federation claims that it does not have the money to provide the Football Ferns with the resources they need to play at a high level.
“The thing I've heard the most is we have no money and we can't afford it, and that's really hard to accept as a player when your organisation for the past eight years have been in a surplus and they've announced a profit for the last eight years. We just want an environment where we are able focus on this job that we call football and we're able to do it without having to worry about if we pay the bills, if I'm going to be able to eat next week, if I'm going to get to these pinnacle events and be in a position where I can actually perform."
Her retirement echoes the USWNT and their demand for equal pay for equal play and several other pay disputes that women’s national teams have waged against their federations.
Given that the NWSL has been criticized for how it treats some players, it may be surprising that in the end of her statement she says, “Time to move on to places where female footballers are appreciated, respected and endorsed.” The current minimum wage in the league is just above $15,000, doubling the $7,200 players were paid last year. Due to the low pay, it has been common for players to retire after one or two years in the league. However, those players are lucky compared to the amateur, meaning unpaid, reserves that teams use due to the fact that only 20 players are allowed on a roster.
While the league has a long way to go to ensure that players and reserves are paid a decent wage, it did take steps to secure the future viability of professional women’s soccer in the US. Earlier this month, the league announced that it is partnering with A+E Networks as an investor and digital content provider. The agreement will raise the profile of the league and give it a weekly national television audience. In addition, the deal shows that while the NWSL is not paying players a high minimum salary, it has made an effort to show it appreciates players and is taking steps that will lead to more financial gain for them.