Women's Team

White salutes 'pioneer' Williams

White salutes 'pioneer' Williams
Ellen White has paid tribute to England legend Fara Williams, hailing the 37-year-old a 'pioneer' of women's football.

The Reading and Lionesses star announced she will hang up her boots at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, calling time on an illustrious career which has spanned more than 20 years.

Standing as her country's all-time leading appearance maker with an astonishing 172 caps to her name, Williams played at three World Cups and the London 2012 Olympics, helping the Lionesses to bronze medal success alongside White in Canada in 2015.

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Paying tribute to her teammate, White hailed the impact Williams sparked - on and off the pitch - throughout her career and thanked the Royals midfielder for 'taking her under her wing' in our City star's early international career.

"Fara is such an amazing person," White said. "She's so gifted on the pitch and I had the pleasure of being teammates with her at England.

"She's such a pioneer for women's football, especially with everything she's been through in her life. She's really inspired so many girls and boys to want to play football.

"I'm really proud to have shared the pitch with her and to have won a bronze medal with her for England.

"I remember her scoring the penalty that led us to win the medal. We were all sprinting onto the pitch, jumping on her. Those are amazing memories.

"[When she announced the news], I actually messaged her and said: 'Thank you so much for being so brutal with your pranks on me!'

"It was when I first joined the England set-up. At the time, I was rooming with Claire Rafferty and we were the youngsters, trying to prank everyone!

"Fara was rooming with Rachel Brown and we tried to prank them but they went to another level, sticking everything we had in our room on the wall! It was crazy!

"You don't forget memories like that. They were senior internationals, while we were just coming in but we drew up an amazing rapport.

"They took us under their wing and respected us from the beginning, which meant a lot.

"I hope Fara has an amazing adventure in what she's gong to do next. It's been an amazing career for her."

Looking back on Williams' impressive career has also provided the chance to reflect on how far the women's game has come over the past two decades.

The FA Women's Super League celebrated its ten-year anniversary earlier this month, while ground-breaking broadcasting deals have also been announced for the coming years and excitement is building ahead of pivotal major international tournaments.

White added she feels immense pride to play her part in the growth of the game, as the players look to 'leave the shirt in a better place' for the next generation.

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"It's amazing," she continued. "For me, when I started out as a kid, I didn't realise you could become a professional footballer.

"I knew there was a professional league in America but I didn't think about being a professional footballer in England.

"It wasn't until recently that was able to happen. The game has developed massively - we have a professional league with more investment with Barclays sponsoring the league and the BBC and Sky showing games, and more people getting involved; coming to watch the games...

"We're having an influx of international players wanting to come over and play, which is great for the game to become more competitive.

"You can definitely see massive improvement. It's essentially the best league in the world and if we keep improving, it makes it even more competitive.

"It's amazing for the players before us for what they have done and how hard they've worked to improve the game. We're trying to do the same, leaving the shirt in a better place.

"I'm proud to have seen where it was to where it is now. There's still a long way to go but it's a good thing that we can still grow and develop.

"It's bigger and better and it's exciting to think what could happen in the next few years. We've really missed having fans at the stadiums too so hopefully, more people will come and support their local teams and support women's football."

Hear more from Ellen in our free digital matchday programme, ahead of Sunday's FA WSL game against Birmingham - available from the evening of Friday 30 April...

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