England’s most capped player Fara Williams has announced she is to retire at the end of the season.
The 37-year-old midfielder, who has been with Reading since 2017, has made 172 England appearances, including playing at three World Cups.
She helped the Lionesses finish in third place at the 2015 World Cup and as runners-up at Euro 2009, and also played for Great Britain during the London 2012 Olympics.
Her honours at club level include winning two Women’s Super League titles with Liverpool and the FA Cup with both Everton and Arsenal.
Williams said in a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram on Monday: “After much consideration and despite offers to remain within the game, I have made the difficult decision to retire from professional football at the end of the season.
“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.”
She added: “Playing football is all I have ever known, but I am excited for the next chapter in my life.
“I look forward to remaining within the game, pursuing opportunities within the media and continuing my coaching badges.”
Williams has made 15 appearances in the WSL this season.
In February she revealed she had been diagnosed with a kidney condition, nephrotic syndrome, last year and spoke about the subsequent challenges she had faced.
And Williams says the illness had played a key role in her decision.
She told Talksport 2’s Women’s Football Weekly programme on Monday evening: “Since I got the illness back in May last year I think it was something that I had been thinking about.
“I didn’t want the illness to defeat me though, so I tried to fight on with the illness and try and play, and I didn’t feel ready to finish before I got the illness.
“I think it’s played a massive part in my decision in terms of considering my health, so I just think now is probably for me the right time to hang the boots up and see what’s out there for me next.”
A message from the official Lionesses Twitter account said: “Sad news, but what an incredible legacy to leave. Congratulations on an incredible career, Fara!”
England and Chelsea playmaker Fran Kirby tweeted: “One of the best to ever do it. Good luck for your next journey @fara_williams47.”
Meanwhile, Lucy Bronze, the England and Manchester City full-back, tweeted: “A record breaker, a friend and an inspiration. Whatever is next for you, you’ll give it the same passion. It was a privilege to share a pitch with you.”
England Women record goalscorer Kelly Smith said on Twitter: “One of the greats of our game @fara_williams47 retiring brought a tear to my eye. I loved being your teammate over the years. What a player and person. The game will miss you my friend. All the best in retirement.”
In Reading’s statement about the news on their official website, they described Williams as “a trailblazing star of the women’s game in the UK”.
And Royals boss Kelly Chambers said: “I simply cannot speak highly enough of Fara. She has been such an instrumental part in our development and success as a club and we will be forever grateful.
“Fara will be missed on the pitch, but I wish her the very best in her next chapter. I have no doubt she will be successful in whatever she chooses to do. Her knowledge of the game is second to none, as is the hunger and desire she has to learn and develop. She is a true idol to any young female football out there.”
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