Carli Lloyd, arguably one of the greatest soccer players in history, was honored Thursday evening with “the biggest party Delran’s ever thrown,” according to the town’s mayor, to celebrate her retirement.
Lloyd announced her retirement from the field in August, which becomes official after she represents the women’s national team in friendly matches with South Korea later this month. She will also end her professional club career with NJ/NY Gotham F.C. of the National Women’s Soccer League on Oct. 31.
Ahead of Thursday’s retirement party, the Burlington County Board of Commissioners designated Oct. 14 as Carli Lloyd Day, the first time that has been done for an individual in the county, according to Mayor Gary Catrambone.
While official crowd estimates were not available as the party was taking place, it was clear the crowds came out to celebrate their hometown hero.
Mariellen Flaherty lives down the street from where Lloyd started kicking a soccer ball, and became a fan later in the soccer star’s career. She recalled a YouTube video she recently saw featuring Lloyd.
“She was in the car driving and there’s our house behind her,” said Flaherty, whose cousins from Philadelphia were also coming to the event. “It’s just a big and great amazing thing.”
Lloyd’s energetic young fans were also on hand, cheering loudly during the celebration. As the soccer star greeted invited guests before the formal program, she waved to the fans and took selfies.
Not only was Lloyd celebrated for her athletic accomplishments, she was also recognized for her work ethic, going back to when she was a kid who kicked a soccer ball against the curb for hours. She is also an inspiration to kids who play the sport now, many of whom want to “play like Carli.”
Twelve-year-old Sophia Foster plays for the Delran FC youth soccer club, wearing the same number as Lloyd – No. 10.
“She’s good at soccer,” Sophia said.
“You like how she likes her Delran fans,” her younger sister, 11-year-old Summer, chimed in, also a Lloyd fan. Summer says she watches matches featuring Lloyd “almost every night for two hours.” She also likes how the star appreciates fans in her hometown.
“And I’m from Delran, so I really like her,” she added, noting she has autographs from Lloyd.
Bella Hailey, 11, says she hopes to follow in her footsteps and play professionally. For now, the sixth grader wants to focus on improving her game.
“I’m going to keep working on, like, doing more tricks, dribbling, shooting more; all that stuff,” Bella said.
Lloyd is an alumna of Delran High School, who went on to play for Rutgers University. While earning her degree in Exercise Science and Sports Studies, she became the Scarlet Knights’ all-time leading scorer and a two-time All-American.
As a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team, her 134 career international goals ranks third all-time among American players. She has played in four World Cups and four Olympic games, leading the team to two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals.
In addition to playing for the national women’s team, Lloyd has also played for professional teams in Chicago, Atlanta, Western New York, and Houston, before finishing her career with NJ/NY Gotham FC.
There were some surprises during Thursday night’s celebration. Lloyd received 134 flowers representing each international goal she scored, a proclamation from Gov. Phil Murphy that was delivered by wife, Tammie, a personal friend of Lloyd’s, and a large version of her favorite doughnut (sugar cream) from L&M Bakery with a message, “Congratulations on your retirement, Carli.”
She also received well wishes from the Philadelphia Union MLS team and the Philadelphia Eagles, which sent a jersey with Lloyd’s name and number on the back.
When it came time to address the crowd, Lloyd noted she would have picked a different night had she known the Eagles would be playing a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
She also quipped that she told the mayor she wanted something low-key.
Recapping her career, Lloyd said “it didn’t matter what I had, the equipment wasn’t what made me.”
“All I wanted all day, every day was my ball,” she added.
“We didn’t have a soccer goal or much equipment in our backyard, which in these days is unheard of,” Lloyd said. “Vermes Field was just around the corner down the street, and the side lawn that we had was long and I used to kick the ball up and down. I would use certain trees as goals.”
Emotionally moved at times during her speech, she thanked her family, coaches, trainers, her husband, Brian, and others who guided and supported her on a 34-year journey in soccer – from when her parents first signed her up as a kid. Lloyd plans on staying involved with the game of soccer. After her final matches, she said she was going on vacation with her husband “off the grid” in November.
The biggest surprise came after Lloyd gave her remarks, when Catrambone announced that the party was being held on the future home of what will be Carli Lloyd Field.
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