Former England and Arsenal captain Faye White announced her retirement from the game today, following a trophy-laden career spanning two decades. She finished her international career almost a year ago after announcing that she was pregnant with her first child. Lukas was born in October and White, now a development marketing officer with the Gunners, admitted her newborn child has provided the perfect distraction.
“It’s obviously a big change having a child, but it adds so much more to your life as well," White told FIFA.com. "When you’re so focused on something for so long and it’s a big part of your life, like playing for your country and playing football, the thought of giving it up leaves a big hole.
“He certainly more than outweighs that and has helped that smoother transition because I can focus all my energy into him. It’s great to have him. It’s a bit more of a juggling act but it’s a great one.”
Baby Lukas was born on 2 October, just a few months after another Lukas arrived at the Emirates Stadium. “People tweeted me asking: ‘Have you named him after Lukas Podolski?’ I have to say no! I always liked the name Luke or Lukas, but it’s probably just because of the way we spelled it that people think that.
“I was at the training ground a couple of weeks ago and my Lukas actually met Podolski. One of the press ladies brought him over. It was like: ‘Lukas meet Lukas!’ The next game they played, Podolski scored a goal – so I think he was a good luck charm for him!”
Arsenal Ladies kick off their domestic campaign with the Continental Cup against Birmingham City this weekend, and the first fixtures of the FA Women's Super League season to follow next month.
“Some teams who weren’t doing so well will be a lot stronger by the looks of it, such as Liverpool, with quite a few players leaving Everton to go there. Birmingham will always be strong and Chelsea have made a few additions.
“There are so many more younger players coming through and filtering into the teams which is adding to the quality of the football. It should be another great season and I can’t wait for it to start.”
White is an ambassador for the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, taking place at Stamford Bridge on 23 May. Arsenal face Italian side Torres in the quarter-finals this afternoon.
“Whichever team you get it’s going to be close because the competition has really developed over the last five years or so. We played Torres back in the 2004/05 season at the quarter-final stage when it was the UEFA Women’s Cup. The second leg was probably one of our best games because the tie ended up 4-3 to us on aggregate. One minute they were going through and the next it was us.
“They’ve got [Patrizia] Panico, one of the top Italian strikers in their team. I’ve played against her quite a few times so I know what a handful she can be. The fact they’re at this stage of the tournament shows they’re a strong side and certainly a team we could slip up against if we don’t play well.”
White is also an ambassador for The FA during their 150th anniversary celebrations. Despite hanging up her boots, she still takes a keen interest in the England side.
“It’s a great honour for me and it’s also the 20th year that the FA have been supporting women’s football. To be involved in such a landmark is really great to help raise the profile of the women’s game. It shows the full support that they have given and they will continue to do going forward.”
England coach Hope Powell is certainly looking to the future, and with a youthful side winning the Cyprus Cup earlier this month, White thinks the omens are good going into this summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO in Sweden.
“Back in 2009 we won the Cyprus Cup in the same year as getting to the final of the EUROs for England. It gives you confidence winning tournaments like that; I know it did back in 2009 because it was the first major tournament that the England squad had won, so it helped going into the EUROs.
“Jordan Nobbs, who ended last season as [Arsenal’s] player’s player of the year, scored at the Cyprus Cup. She was the U-15 and U-19 captain so she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She’s a small girl but she gets about the pitch and is a physical presence as well for such a small girl. She’s not afraid to tell the older ones what she wants to happen. She’s a good one to watch out for.”
One international competition that White missed out on was last summer’s Women's Olympic Football Tournament, with the defender instead spending time as a television pundit.
“I had mixed emotions really. It felt great to be a part of it, being so close and certainly seeing a different side of it. I could feel what they were going through I knew what that still felt like. I’d played at the old Wembley but not at the new one and certainly not to a full house. My dream growing up was to see Wembley full for an England or Team GB women’s game.
“You realise that things come to an end and it was great to still be a part of it and to have another avenue to go into. I love being able to talk about the game.”
As well as her punditry, White is currently enjoying her role as a Development Marketing Officer at Arsenal, with her focus very much on the next generation.
“We’re trying to get girls involved in playing and trying to promote the game. We’re trying to think of different initiatives around the games that the fans can interact with and feel part of. I feel quite fortunate to work behind the scenes.
“When I don’t have such a young son to look after and he gets a little bit older, perhaps I can start to put my efforts into other areas as well. Maybe coaching.”
A succession of injuries may have forced White to call time on a playing career that saw her lift over 30 trophies, including a historic quadruple in 2007. But for the former defender, this end is just the beginning.