‘It’s been a pleasure and privilege’: Fara Williams to retire at end of the season

Fara Williams, England’s most capped player, male or female, has announced she will retire from professional football at the end of the season. “After much consideration and despite offers to remain within the game,” she said on Monday, “I have made the difficult decision to retire from professional football.”

The 37-year-old has 172 caps for England and played at four European Championships and three World Cups, including winning a bronze medal with the national team in Canada in 2015. She was also part of the Team GB squad at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In February the midfielder, known for her almost routine stunning long-range strikes, spoke of her 12-month battle with the kidney condition nephrotic syndrome and the swelling and weight gain she suffered as a result of the treatment. Despite the difficult circumstances, Williams continued to play for Reading throughout.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have had a career of more than 20 years within the women’s game, with some incredible highs, including winning the Women’s Super League, two Women’s Premier League Cups and two FA Women’s Cup titles, as well as earning 172 caps for the England national team,” she said.

“When I look back on my career at standout moments, I always return to making my home debut for England, which was beyond my wildest dreams. This was when I really got a sense of what it means to represent your country.”

Williams, who was awarded an MBE in 2016, began her career at Chelsea and also played for Charlton, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal before settling at Reading in 2017.

Having joined Liverpool from Everton in 2012, she lifted back-to-back Women’s Super League titles as the club ended Arsenal’s nine-year stint at the top.

“I have experienced the rise of women’s football first-hand, with the game turning professional during my career,” said Williams, who thanked the coaches Mo Marley and Hope Powell for their role in her development as a player and the journalist Tony Leighton for covering the women’s game when “no one else was”.

After becoming estranged from her mother for nine years, Williams was homeless for seven years, bouncing from hostel to hostel while playing for England. Initially she hid her homelessness from her teammates. On announcing her exit from the game she said: “Playing football is all I have ever known but I am excited for the next chapter of my life. I look forward to remaining within the game, pursuing opportunities with the media and continuing my coaching badges.”