Former England international Anita Asante will come out of retirement for one special appearance this summer as she prepares to represent her country at Soccer Aid for UNICEF.
The defender hung up her boots at the end of the 2021/22 Women’s Super League season, calling time on a glittering football career that saw her amass 71 caps for the Lionesses and win an abundance of domestic trophies in both England and Sweden.
Asante spoke with GiveMeSport Women about featuring in her first ever Soccer Aid for UNICEF tournament, where she will join the likes of former international teammate Fara Williams and West Ham legend Mark Noble, who will also retire at the end of this season.
The former Lioness enjoyed some astonishing moments throughout her career, most notably, helping Arsenal achieve their unprecedented quadruple-winning season in 2007.
Of course, professional footballers cannot feature at Soccer Aid for UNICEF if they are still an active player, so this is an exciting first opportunity for Asante and she can’t wait to get stuck into the action.
“I thought I was retiring but then I was like ‘nope, I’ve got one more game to boot up for,'” the former Arsenal and Chelsea star laughed.
“It’s a great cause, this is going to inspire so many young children globally [and help them] get the support that they deserve, have fun, play and experience these things within sports. But also improve their lives as well in terms of nutrition and just having the basic resources for them to thrive.
“It’s a great privilege to be part of it and to experience it with other people who want to make a difference and bring exposure to this cause as well.”
Asante will join a star-studded England team looking to bag their first Soccer Aid for UNICEF win in four years.
Led out by captain and global music sensation Liam Payne, the home team will feature household names including Sir Mo Farah and Aitch, as well as footballing icons Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville, and Teddy Sheringham among others.
“For me, it’s just an absolute honour to play among some people I highly respect and have watched across TV myself to contribute to a fantastic cause. So I just urge everyone to get tickets and come out and support the day because it’s going to help so many people across the world.”
Women’s football visibility
Soccer Aid for UNICEF is also a great platform for showcasing the talent of women involved in football. This year, it boasts the highest female representation yet.
Williams and Eni Aluko will join Asante on Team England and Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has been named as a part of the management team. They will come up against World Cup winners Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly of the USA, as well as returning player Chelcee Grimes.
After she was announced for her third Soccer Aid for UNICEF, Grimes — a singer-songwriter and presenter — revealed she has set herself a goal to become the first woman to score on the Soccer Aid stage.
The Liverpudlian recently took part in thrilling reality TV programme Freeze the Fear, as well as sports game show The Games. After dominating the cold and emerging victorious at The Games, it’s clear Grimes has the competitive nature to make her dream a reality.
“That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? No pressure girls,” Asante laughed as she discussed the idea of a female goalscorer on the board this year. “But I don’t see why not, there are some amazing talents on this year’s list like Carli and Eni, so hopefully one of us can make it happen.
“I’ve seen Fara basically make a career out of scoring worldies, as well as Carli, so I’d put my money on either one of them to do it.”
Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2022 takes place on Sunday 12th June at the London Stadium. A family of four can attend the game for just £60 – buy your tickets at socceraid.org.uk/tickets