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Ali Riley on How She’s Preparing for the World Cup

Ali Riley has had a very chill few years. She’s currently captain of the New Zealand National Team and has represented them in four FIFA World Cups and three Olympic Games. Riley played for Sweden, England and Germany. She has now found herself back stateside, playing for Angel City FC in Los Angeles. If you thought Riley’s resume stopped at soccer superstar, you’d be wrong. She wrote a cookbook, Girls Gone Veg, with fellow soccer player Toni Deion Pressley and has had multiple side hustles.

For female soccer players, their day doesn’t usually get to end once they leave the field. Riley notes that there are partnerships and preparation and other things that go into being a professional soccer player because they generally don’t get paid what they deserve. “So all the extra things we can do, like taking care of our body and maintaining the partnerships we have, it really goes a long way. Any opportunity we have to talk to an outlet like yours is really helpful for us.”

What are you doing to prepare for the next World Cup physically and mentally?

“Well, I’ve had a few injuries lately. Being healthy is going to be the most important thing so I can be ready for the tournament. Taking care of my body is so important. I have my routine that I do with the medical team at Angel City with my activation. I have prehab and rehab exercises.

When I wake up, I do my skin-care routine, which is something I love. I go to training nice and early and go through all the steps I have with the physios, the athletic trainer and our strength coach trainer. I make sure I’m stretching and doing my exercises to strengthen. Then I get treatment, whether it’s acupuncture, massage or ice tub. Then I just come home, try to relax and then at night I do another whole skin-care thing. I try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. From the physical and mental side having that routine and practicing self-care is really important. 

I’m lucky that the coaches and the training staff at Angel City in New Zealand are giving me all the right sessions on the days we do extras to get my crossing and defending ready. I think for me it’s important to focus on the side of it that I can control, which is those hours when I’m not on the field.”

How are you making sure your diet stays healthy and consistent while you’re so busy?

“It can be really challenging because, of course, you get home from a day of training or doing media calls and having those extra responsibilities as a captain, like meetings with the coaches and wanting to do analysis. So by the time I get home, I’m tempted to order food or just snack all night, but that’s why this partnership with Tovala has been so helpful.

To be honest, ever since writing this cookbook with my best friend and coming back from the season, I felt like I cooked so much in the off-season doing recipe testing, and now I’m so busy, so having these healthy meals and amazing portion sizes has been great.

It feels like I have a private chef—honestly, that’s what the meals are like. I don’t even have to think about anything. Plus, I get to use the extra time when they’re in the oven. I like to eat mostly plant-based and vegetarian, and they have so many good nutritious carbs. That’s something that I think a lot of people overlook, especially if you’re not eating a lot of meat and if you run a lot like I do. Having sweet potato, chickpeas, basmati rice and biscuits has been a lifesaver, and this season isn’t getting any less busy. I’m able to kind of have that balance of using Tovala but also getting back into cooking when things settle down a tiny bit.

I like cooking for myself. I just love food, but also it’s such a fun way for me to connect with people. When you invite someone over and you make a meal, they know you’ve done it with love. It’s such a cool way to connect, dining with people over home-cooked food. It’s a great way to meet people, get to know new teammates and connect with my family. I just feel like when there’s good food and good vibes, that’s when relationships really form, and you just have the best conversations and the best evenings.”

What is your daily skin-care routine?

“I’m obsessed. I have my serums and my hyaluronic acid. I like to do the whole massage thing and I have a vibrating jade stone. Also I have the Solawave Wand ($149). I just love it. It’s something my mom has always been into. Together we always wear masks, and we do the eye masks. We’ve done the peeling mask, we do the sheet masks, we do it all. 

In the morning, of course, I use sunscreen. I’m glad there’s been this movement. I think brands now are taking more care to incorporate SPF, but also make skin-care and makeup products for different skin tones and types and skin with melanin and those with sunspots. I’ve learned a lot about skin care. I’m not going to lie—I have a spray, toner, then I probably have like three serums, then my sun serum, then my lotion, and when I get to training, I put my tinted moisturizer on.”

Is there a sunscreen you swear by on the field?

“I use Sun Bum, Zinka and Coola. I wish that I had been smarter earlier with sunscreen. Now I incorporate sunscreen into my skin care. I like a sunscreen serum. It feels a little more luxurious than just putting on zinc. I try to make it fun with my teammates. I have different colored zincs and tinted moisturizer, and tinted sunscreen. It’s nothing like what we were doing when I was in my early 20s.”

What is your skin care like when you’re traveling?

“The brands I have found that I like I bring with me everywhere. My toiletry bag is like a suitcase, it’s enormous, and it’s clear, so everyone’s always like ‘there’s Ali’s suitcase.’ I really like Glow Recipe. I’m trying to be more careful with the products I buy and support women-founded, women-run, women-of-color, Asian-owned businesses. I’ve been trying to give my Asians some love. So that’s a really cool way to do it since I feel like Asians know what’s up in the skin-care business.

We played in Japan, and I just stocked up. When I was playing in Chelsea, my teammate, who’s Korean, gave me products. That was probably the beginning of my love for skin care. She gave me these Korean products, and oh my gosh, they changed my life.”

What are some of your favorite things to eat before practice or a big game?

“So I actually really like having oatmeal. It took a while to find a recipe I liked because the oatmeal I grew up having really put me off. When I was living in Sweden, the girls were really into having oatmeal and putting banana, cinnamon and vanilla on it. I’ve gotten so into the toppings like walnuts and chopped apples. I do overnight oats too, because sometimes I’m in a rush in the morning, and I can bring it to training. Tovala actually has this amazing apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, and I had never had baked oatmeal before. I toss it in, continue getting ready and then my apartment smells amazing. 

That’s the easiest thing to get the energy I need. Then when I get to training, I’ll top up with a bar or a little bit of nut butter with a bite of a bagel or something. Throughout the day, I love eating nut butters and fruit. I’ve been eating a lot of cotton candy grapes, which are so good they just taste like candy. In terms of plant-based snacks like I love making smoothies. I like baking bliss balls. We have cool things in the cookbook, like healthy treats because I have a really bad sweet tooth. I like things with dates, almond butter, oats, banana. Those kinds of snacks are my go-to.”

What does it mean to you to play for Angel City FC with so many exciting stakeholders supporting the team?

“So there was a team—LA Sol that was the other professional team in LA, and I really hoped to get drafted, and I was like ‘this is my chance to stay in California,’ then that team folded, so I felt like it was never going to come back. If this team couldn’t work out with these superstars—it was one of the highest profile teams that have ever been formed—then no team can be sustained in LA. Then 12 years went by, and finally, Angel City actually signed players again. So for me, not knowing that I would get traded to this team, seeing the owners—the largest female ownership group in sports—that sends a huge message to me.

It’s really important for me to empower women and prove to people that women can do anything that we set our minds to. To prove that women are powerful and we can run companies and sports teams. So when Angel City was being formed I was already a secret fan even though I was on an opposition team. I was just so excited for the city of Los Angeles and the diverse little girls in this city to be able to see players live week in and week out. So then to come here and actually feel that support and not only just play and have 19,000-plus fans on average, but to actually engage with those fans who have sick support groups, who are just so committed and so dedicated, it’s like an unconditional love.

I think that’s something you see on the men’s side. Of course, you have grumbling when their teams lose, but like they tattoo the crest or player’s names on them. With Angel City, you’re seeing that type of following. I wish that I wasn’t surprised. I wish that I hadn’t been affected by a life of being told that ‘women can’t do X, Y and Z’ and that ‘people don’t care about women’s sports,’ but I actually have been surprised. It’s given me this perspective that I want to keep this going. 

I want to give everything to this club on the field and off so that when the next generation of girls and women play for this team, when they play in this league, when they play for a national team, they won’t be surprised when they feel the support—that’s the whole point. Angel City is not trying to be an outlier. It’s not trying to be unique. It’s sharing its sponsorship model, practices, how we got so many season ticket holders, why we sell so much merchandise because it wants other women-owned businesses and teams to be able to follow in our footsteps.

Representation is a really big part. We have a diverse team. We have a diverse following. I think representation is really important, but having visibility allows that representation to be felt even more. To just have a team that has diversity and celebrates inclusion is one thing. To have the platform Angel City does takes it to the next level.”

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