Megan Rapinoe made a stirring speech after claiming the women’s player of the year at the Best FIFA Football awards in Milan, where Lionel Messi and Jurgen Klopp were also among the winners.
Barcelona star Messi was named FIFA’s men’s player of the year for a record sixth time after a 2018-19 season in which he scored 51 goals for the club and helped them win LaLiga. The Argentina international pipped Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk to the prize.
Liverpool boss Klopp took the men’s coach award, having last term guided his side to Champions League glory and seen them narrowly miss out on the Premier League title, won by Manchester City. Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, whose team Liverpool defeated in the Champions League final, and City’s Pep Guardiola had also been shortlisted.
But Rapinoe stole the show after she was honoured after her key role in the United States winning the Women’s World Cup over the summer, from which she emerged with the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for best player.
After being announced as best women’s player at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the 34-year-old made a speech during which mentioned various issues within the game, including racism, homophobia and equal pay, and said she had been inspired by England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling.
Rapinoe said: “I was going to say some of the stories that have inspired me most this year – Raheem Sterling and (Napoli defender Kalidou) Koulibaly, their incredible performances on the field, but the way that they have taken on the disgusting racism that they have to face, this year but probably for their whole lives.
“I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly, if they were as outraged about racism as they were.
“If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women’s game, other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.
“I feel like that’s my ask of everybody. We have such an incredible opportunity, being professional football players. We have incredible platforms. I ask everyone here – lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success.
“We have a unique opportunity in football to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, and just do something, do anything. We have incredible power in this room.”
Rapinoe won the award ahead of international team-mate Alex Morgan, who matched her in scoring six times during the summer’s tournament in France, and England’s Lucy Bronze, who was the Silver Ball winner at the World Cup.
Rapinoe received her award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who claimed this summer would mark a “turning point in women’s football”.
“We will make it shine at the top, top level,” he said. “We will invest, we will create new competitions, Club World Cup, Nations League, and we will make sure women’s football will be side by side with men’s football in all different levels.”
Infantino also said FIFA had received assurances from the authorities in Iran that women in the country would be allowed to attend men’s football matches, starting with “the next international qualifying match of the Iran national team, on October 10”.
Klopp praised his players as he collected his award, saying: “I have to say thank you to my outstanding club Liverpool FC, to the owners, and I have to thank my team. I’m really proud of being the manager of such an incredible bunch of players.”
Outgoing United States boss Jill Ellis took the women’s coach award ahead of England boss Phil Neville.
Ellis this summer became the first coach in history to win two Women’s World Cups, having also overseen the US triumph in 2015. Her side beat Neville’s Lionesses in the semi-finals.
Liverpool’s Alisson Becker won the men’s goalkeeper award, beating Manchester City counterpart Ederson and Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while the women’s award went to Holland and former Arsenal keeper Sari Van Veenendaal.
Alisson and Van Dijk were the only Premier League players in the men’s FIFA/FIFpro team of the Year, although Eden Hazard, who left Chelsea for Real Madrid over the summer was included. Lyon’s Bronze was the sole England player in the women’s team.
The fair play award went to Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa and his squad after he last season instructed his players to allow Aston Villa to score an equaliser against them unopposed.
The Puskas Award for the best goal went to 18-year-old Daniel Zsori for an overhead kick scored for Devrecen against Ferencvaros, while Silvia Grecco, who narrates matches to her blind and autistic son inside Palmeiras’ stadium, won the fan award.