Rachel Aba Yankey, OBE (born 1 November 1979) is an English former footballer who played for the England national team. She played as a left winger or forward. She left Arsenal after 13 years in December 2016 at the end of her contract. She is ranked among the Arsenal Ladies Legends.
Since making her debut in 1997, Yankey has appeared on 129 occasions for England and became the most capped player ever to play for England, ahead of male goalkeeper Peter Shilton with 125. She was the second English female player, after Gillian Coultard, to make a century of international appearances. Yankey was part of the Great Britain squad for the 2012 London Olympics.
Yankey began playing football as the only girl in a boys' team. Aged eight she shaved her hair off, pretending to be a boy called 'Ray' (an acronym of her birth names). She was able to play in the boys' team for two years before her real identity was discovered.
Yankey joined Mill Hill United at youth level after the club's manager, Russell Mountford, attended an annual general meeting (AGM) at Yankey's boys' club. She also represented Brent in the London Youth Games as a youngster, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2011
Yankey's senior playing career began at the age of 16, playing for Arsenal, when she spent a short time on loan with Laval Dynamites, a Canadian team, and then moved to Fulham in 2000.
It was here that she was registered as the first professional female footballer in England. She joined Birmingham City before the 2004–05 season, and then, after being released from Birmingham, rejoined Arsenal for the 2005–06 season after a short spell with the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League in the United States. Yankey, along with England teammate Rachel Unitt, played for the Wildcats for the last seven games of the season, and helped them win the W-League championship. In 2011, she helped Arsenal to another domestic treble.
In January 2014 Yankey signed a new two-year contract with Arsenal. She was praised by the club's general manager, Vic Akers: "She remains a key part of the team and her ability and experience will be invaluable in the season ahead." As of 30 December 2016 Yankey was released by Arsenal at the end of her Contract.
In August 1997 Yankey made her senior England debut, scoring in a 4–0 win over Scotland at Almondvale Stadium.
Yankey became arguably the most famous female footballer in England. having modelled new England kits, and appeared on the FA women's homepage header. She is also noted for appearing in the BBC's online BBC Sport 'Academy Masterclasses' mini-series, teaching young footballers basic soccer skills.
In May 2009, Yankey was one of the first 17 female players to be given central contracts by The Football Association. However, in August 2009 she was surprisingly left out of coach Hope Powell's 22–player squad for Euro 2009 with Powell believing that her form did not justify a call–up. Yankey was also overlooked for the 2011 Women's World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Turkey. But after a return to form with Arsenal Ladies, she was recalled by Powell for the 2010 Cyprus Cup and won her 90th and 91st caps — as a 76th-minute substitute for Jessica Clarke in a 1–0 win over South Africa and as a starter in a 1–0 defeat to Canada.
A return to form at both club and international level saw Yankey being selected regularly again by Powell, and on 29 July 2010 Yankey became the second Englishwoman after Gillian Coultard to earn 100 caps during a home World Cup qualifier against Turkey. Yankey, who was captain for the night, scored a goal and played the entire 90 minutes as England won 3–0.
In a World Cup warm–up friendly against the United States, Yankey hit the second goal in England's 2–1 win at Brisbane Road. At the final tournament Yankey netted in England's 2–0 group B win over Japan after coming on as a half–time substitute.
In June 2012 Yankey equalled Coultard's record of 119 appearances for England in a 4–0 win in Slovenia. She set a new record of 120 caps by playing in England's 3–0 win over Croatia at Bescot Stadium on 19 September 2012. In June 2013 Yankey played in a 1–1 friendly draw with Japan and broke Peter Shilton's all-time national record of 125 caps. She was included in the England squad which performed poorly at UEFA Women's Euro 2013 and was eliminated in the first round.
Incoming England manager Mark Sampson left Yankey out of his first squad in December 2013. He stressed that "the door is firmly open" for her to come back in.
Great Britain Olympic
In June 2012 Yankey was named in the 18–player Great Britain squad for the 2012 London Olympics.
- Scores and results list England's goal tally first.
|1||24 August 1997||Almondvale Stadium, Livingston||Scotland||4–0||Friendly||1|
|2||13 September 1998||Câmpina||Romania||4–1||1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Qual.||1|
|3||28 November 2000||Brisbane Road, London||Ukraine||2–0||2001 UEFA Women's Championship Qual.||1|
|4||27 September 2001||Auestadion, Kassel||Germany||1–3||2003 FIFA World Cup Qual.||1|
|5||4 September 2003||Turf Moor, Burnley||Australia||1–0||Friendly||1|
|7||9 March 2005||Faro||Portugal||4–0||Algarve Cup||2|
|8||13 March 2005||Estádio Fernando Cabrita, Lagos||Mexico||5–0||Algarve Cup||1|
|9||27 October 2005||Tapolca||Hungary||13–0||2007 FIFA World Cup Qual.||1|
|10||31 August 2006||The Valley, London||Netherlands||4–0||2007 FIFA World Cup Qual.||1|
|11||8 March 2007||National Hockey Stadium, Milton Keynes||Russia||6–0||Friendly||1|
|12||17 May 2007||Roots Hall, Southend||Iceland||4–0||Friendly||1|
|13||11 February 2009||Larnaca||Finland||4–1||Friendly||1|
|14||29 July 2010||Bescot Stadium, Walsall||Turkey||3–0||2011 FIFA World Cup Qual.||1|
|15||2 April 2011||Brisbane Road, London||United States||2–1||Friendly||1|
|16||5 July 2011||Impuls Arena, Augsburg||Japan||2–0||2011 FIFA Women's World Cup||1|
|17||17 September 2011||Omladinski stadion, Belgrade||Serbia||2–2||2013 UEFA Women's Championship Qual.||1|
|18||22 September 2011||County Ground, Swindon||Slovenia||4–0||2013 UEFA Women's Championship Qual.||1|
|19||17 June 2012||Salford City Stadium||Netherlands||1–0||2013 UEFA Women's Championship Qual.||1|
|20||13 March 2013||GSZ Stadium, Larnaca, Cyprus||Canada||1–0||2013 Cyprus Cup Final||1|
Yankey was announced as a first team coach of London Bees in June 2018. Following the departure of Luke Swindlehurst in February 2019 to become head coach of Barnet's under-18s team, Yankey was appointed Head Coach. She left the club in May 2019.
- FA Women's National Premier League (6) – 1996–97, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10
- FA Women's Cup (9) – 1998, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014
- FA Women's Premier League Cup (4) – 1998, 1999, 2007, 2009
- UEFA Women's Cup (1) – 2007
- FA WSL (2) – 2011, 2012
- FA Women's National Premier League (1) – 2002–03
- FA Women's Cup (2) – 2002, 2003
- FA Women's Premier League Cup (3) – 2002, 2003
- New Jersey Wildcats
- W-League (1) – 2005
- Nationwide International Player of the Year (2004–05) season
- London Youth Games Hall of Famer (Class of 2011)
Yankey was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2006 New Year Honours and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours, both for services to football.
When not playing, or practicing, Yankey works as a coach in schools, teaching football to children. This includes hosting a CBeebies programme, Footy Pups. It was reported that Yankey's middle name came about as her mother was a fan of ABBA, the Swedish pop group. However, in 2010 Yankey indicated that it was actually related to her Ghanaian heritage.