150 not out: New Zealand record-breaker Percival living her dream at Tottenham

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Ria Percival Tottenham Hotspur Women 2019
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The 30-year-old's career has taken her to five different countries, four World Cup finals, three Olympics Games and, now, her dream club

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, it feels like an age since a football was kicked.

In Europe, the pandemic has led to the suspension of the sport just as the season was reaching its climax, with the finales of title races and cup competitions all put on hold, with health and safety paramount.

The sense of uncertainty and concern is mixed with a feeling of utmost pride for Tottenham's Ria Percival.

The last time the 30-year-old took to the pitch, in a 2-1 defeat to Norway on March 10, it would bring her an incredible 150th cap for New Zealand.

“It’s really special for me and my career,” she told Goal. “With everything that is happening at the moment, it’s obviously just something to sit back and think about and reflect on how far I’ve come really.

“You always dream when you’re a young girl of representing your country and getting that first cap, but to get 150 is just a milestone that I’m honoured to have achieved really.”

It’s an accolade that makes Percival the most-capped player in her country’s history, with four World Cup finals and three Olympic Games under her belt since a debut aged 16 in 2006.

Despite representing New Zealand, Percival was born in the town of Basildon, an hour’s drive from London.

It was in England where she was first spotted for her footballing ability, picked up by Colchester United's academy, before she moved to New Zealand with her family at 14.

“When you come from England, it’s a football-mad nation," she added. "Then, you go to New Zealand and it’s a totally different shift in sport and what the main focus is.

Megan Rapinoe Ria Percival USA New Zealand 2017

“[In] the academy, I went up through the age groups, then going to New Zealand, there wasn’t really that set-up and support at the time.

“I got chucked in with a boys team, but they said I was too good for them, so they moved me in with a women’s team at the age of 14 or 15.

“I was playing in the women’s league in New Zealand then. You’re playing in a team full of older players and a lot of them, at the time, were playing for New Zealand.”

Since 2018, Percival has been back in England. It’s a circle which has taken her through the United States, Germany and Switzerland along the way, but now sees her playing for the club she supported as a young girl: Tottenham.

“My family – grandad, uncles, dad, everyone – support them, so I’ve supported them all my life,” she said. “To be able to play for a club I’ve supported my whole life... when I had the chance, I wasn’t really going to turn it down.

“With [Spurs] being such a big club and a big name in itself, it’s one thing for any player to come here, but they’re trying to build as a club [too].

“I think with the experience we’ve had this season in the league and how we’ve been playing, it puts us in a good position moving forward in the next few years to really go further.”

It’s Tottenham’s first season in the Women’s Super League, following promotion from the Championship last year, but they’ve hardly struggled.

While football is put on hold, the club sit sixth in the standings and have not only impressed with their results, but in their performances, too.

“I’m quite critical of myself and the team so I’d say, personally, we could be sitting higher in the league with some of the performances and results we’ve got so far,” she adds.

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“Overall, we’re sitting in the middle of the table and we’re a team that only got promoted last season.

“I can’t really say that we’re doing badly.”

When Spurs have a veteran leader with 150 international caps like Percival in the dressing room, it’s no surprise.

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