After 18 years as a professional, All Whites forward Rory Fallon said it was a “surreal feeling” retiring from football.
The 35-year-old from Gisborne made the call after the All Whites failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, going down 2-0 to Peru in the Intercontinental Playoff in Lima.
Fallon, one of the heroes from the 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign in South Africa where New Zealand famously went undefeated, has been a massive part of the All Whites both on and off the field since making his debut in 2009.
“It’s surreal because as a young boy, you feel like you are going to play forever,” said Fallon, who played 24 internationals for New Zealand scoring six goals.
“I’m 35 now and I don’t want to go into my 40s not being able to walk. I have had 18 years so I am truly thankful to my wife and family and the fans for their support and even the people that didn’t like me. All the ones that thought I wasn’t good enough, they were the people that got me up in the morning. I wanted to prove them wrong. The last three years of my club career were horrific but my faith was the thing that kept me going.”
Fallon knew this day was coming. He worked incredibly hard to achieve the goal of getting back into the All Whites squad for the Intercontinental Playoff against Peru for one last chance at another World Cup.
“I embraced every moment of the tour, I got to know the boys and the staff better and I have cherished every moment. It would have been great to go to another World Cup but I can’t be greedy. I have been to one. I wanted to finish on a high and I know we didn’t get the result we were after but I felt it was a great level to finish on. It was the perfect time for me to bow out and we need some new leaders now.”
Fallon said the senior players in the team, Chris Wood and Winston Reid, need to continue leading by example and the younger players like Ryan Thomas will help the next generation.
“The nucleus of the team is there. Guys like Clayton [Lewis] going to England, they have four more years to develop, four years where you will see these young players become men. If you look back at the 2010 team we were men at our peak age and we had a team bond that was unbreakable.”
He offered simple advice for the next generation of All Whites coming through; they need to grasp every opportunity and be prepared to do the hard graft to achieve their goals.
“To have that dream to get to a World Cup, you need to make sacrifices. When you stop, you realise what you have given to the game. I have spent year away from my family to pursue my dream.”
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) November 20, 2017
Family has always been big for Fallon. The son of Kevin Fallon, the Assistant Coach for the All Whites at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Rory grew up watching many of his heroes from close distance. His Dad took him and fellow promising forward of the time David Mulligan to England as 17-year-old to pursue the footballing dream of playing professionally.
“I am still there 18 years later. Now it has come to an end. This is me done for club and country.”
Fallon will be forever remembered for scoring the goal in the 1-0 win over Bahrain 2009 game. It was a moment that cemented the Fallon name in the New Zealand Football history books.
“I still get Goosebumps when I talk about it. The whole context makes that goal special. Us waiting so long to get to the World Cup, my Dad taking the first team to a World Cup and then me scoring the goal to get us to the next one. It is a great story most of all. It was possibly one of the greatest sporting nights New Zealand has ever seen. Our team took the opportunity to go to a World Cup and I cherish that the most. I know that there will be another team come up soon and I am looking forward to watching them.”
THANKS | #AllWhites legend Rory Fallon has announced his retirement from all forms of football after 29 appearances for New Zealand and six goals, thanks for the memories Rory! pic.twitter.com/gpePCVcSiD
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) November 19, 2017
Fallon said the 2010 team believed they could beat anyone they came up against and they were all disappointed to not go through to the next round in South Africa.
“For the next batch of All Whites that is what it is going to take. They are either going to have to win a game or they are going to have to progress to the next round. That is what I wanted this team to do. I am going to miss being in this environment, but it is time to move on.”
Rory Fallon’s Career by the Numbers
24 – A Internationals
14 – Professional Clubs (Barnsley, Swindon Town, Swansea City, Plymouth Argyle, Yeovil Town, Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Crawley Town, Scunthorpe United, Bristol Rovers, Truro City, Torquay United, Dorchester Town)
6 – Goals
2 – Goals in the Intercontinental Playoffs
1 – FIFA World Cup