Andrea Neil has retired from competitive soccer after 18 years with the Canadian national program and six years with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Neil retires as the all-time leader in games played for both her country and her club.
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"It was through long and difficult deliberation that I decided to retire as a player from international and domestic competition," says Neil. "It was important for me to leave at a time whereby I still have a deep passion and respect for the game. I would like to thank those involved with both the Canadian Soccer Association and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. I have loved every step of the journey."
Neil joined the national program in 1990 and made her senior-team debut on 19 April 1991 in Haiti at a CONCACAF women’s tournament. She was only 19 years old at the time. Three years later, she took part in her second CONCACAF women’s tournament, this time in Montréal, QC. Neil scored two goals in three games as Canada qualified for its first FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Neil’s final game was 15 September 2007 in Hangzhou at the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007. It was not only Canada’s fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance, but Neil’s fourth, too. In between Sweden 1995 and China 2007, Neil took part in USA 1999 and USA 2003. At USA 2003, Neil helped Canada finish fourth overall.
From 2001 to 2006, Neil played for the Vancouver Whitecaps (originally known as the Breakers). She was the club’s captain for the first six years of the franchise’s existence and was a player/assistant coach for the last three seasons. In 2004 and 2006, she led the club to two USL W-League championships. She left the Whitecaps as the club’s all-time leader in assists (22), minutes played (6,066) and games (69). The native of Vancouver, BC, also ranks third for points (70), and is tied for third with goals (24) and game-winning goals (8).
In 2007, Neil spent the year in a residency program with the Canadian women’s national team. In preparation for China 2007, she helped Canada win a bronze medal at the XV Pan American Games Rio 2007 (she scored two goals in the competition). One month later in Canada’s final tune-up on 30 August 2007 in Tokyo, Japan, Neil captain the Canadian squad in her 131st appearance with the senior team.
Neil retires after 18 seasons, four FIFA Women’s World Cups and 132 caps with the Canadian senior team (102 of which came under coach Even Pellerud). She also scored 24 goals over the course of her career, including one hat trick at the 2002 Algarve Cup against Scotland (a 3:0 win).
In her final season, Neil also helped the Canadian women’s program reach an all-time high in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings – ninth best in the world. Canada’s senior women’s team, whose title sponsor is Winners, is currently in phase one of their preparations for the 2008 Olympic qualifications.
… a role model for Canadians ...
“Andrea represented the Canadian women’s national team in more games than any other player,” says Dominic Maestracci, Canadian Soccer Association chairman of the board. “Since her first selection to the team in 1991 up until her most recent participation in the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, Andrea has been a role model for all Canadian players. I hope that she will continue to put her experience and her leadership qualities to the benefit of soccer in Canada.”
... a pioneer in women’s football
“She has been one of the pioneers in women’s football,” says Victor Montagliani, Canadian Soccer Association vice-president and chair of the national teams committee. “She is the exact role model that we look for in our game. Hopefully, she will continue to be involved in the game.”
... she has been instrumental ... influential ... valuable ...
“Andrea Neil has been instrumental in the evolvement and continuous progress of the women’s soccer program - and that is an understatement,” says Even Pellerud, head coach of the Canadian senior women’s team. “As the senior team gradually took on a professional atmosphere and required full-time dedication, the demands on the players became tougher. This culture shift was only possible because of the skills and leadership capability that Andrea provided.
“Never in my professional coaching career of more than 20 years has an athlete been so influential. Never has one of my players been a closer ally to my coaching and my leadership as has Andrea. A lot of pages have been turned, but she was always there, unselfishly ready to help the staff and the players, adopting and promoting new ideas and new challenges.
“When Andrea now goes in a new direction, we all have the strong hope that she returns to this game and to this program sooner rather than later. Her leadership and her personality are too valuable to lose.”
... very professional attitude ...
“From her very first involvement with the national team, Andrea proved she possessed a very professional attitude towards the game,” says Sylvie Béliveau, former coach of the Canadian senior women’s team. “Andrea has always been a hard-working player that is easy to coach. With experience, she has become a very positive leader for the team and a true role model. It has been a real pleasure to work with such an athlete and I hope Canada can continue to benefit from her experience as a leader.”
... relentless commitment ...
“Andrea is the ultimate pioneer and ambassador,” said Bob Lenarduzzi, Vancouver Whitecaps FC President. “Her relentless commitment to growing women’s soccer in Canada is second to none. She is a natural leader and was instrumental during the Whitecaps two W-League championships, 2004 and 2006.”