If you thought the final nominees for FIFA’s Best Women’s Player of the Year Award were a little odd, you are not alone.
On Monday, U.S. national soccer team midfielder Megan Rapinoe gave her opinion on the shortlist, and to put it kindly, she was not happy.
The final three nominees for the 2016-17 season include two-time Women’s Player of the Year and U.S. national soccer team captain Carli Lloyd, Dutch forward and 2017 EURO champ Lieke Martens and Venezuelan striker Deyna Castellanos.
Castellanos nomination raised the most eyebrows since the 18-year-old is only a sophomore at Florida State University and plays with Santa Clarita Blue Heat as a part of the United Women’s Soccer league in America. Though she has played for the Venezuelan national team (mostly at the youth level), Castellanos is not a professional soccer player yet.
“The award just doesn’t hold a lot of weight when you’ve got someone on the list I’ve never heard of,” Rapinoe told the BBC. “It signals to us and it signals to the rest of the world that FIFA doesn’t really care.”
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FIFA responded by saying the finalists are picked by national team coaches, national team captains, media representatives and fans.
“The process is clear and transparent and we are not involved in the final selection of nominees,” FIFA said in a statement. “However, we have taken note of the concerns raised by the football community and our fans and will take this feedback on board in future editions of The Best Awards.”
Rapinoe did not buy that explanation, however, and called FIFA “old, male and stale” in regards to how they treat female soccer players.
“If some random male player, who was not even a full professional, was nominated, I’m sure they would step in for that. So it’s disappointing that the same hasn’t been done for us,” she said.
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Is there any defense to have Castellanos on the list? Not much on a senior international level, though she is no doubt an up-and-comer. At the age of 15, she won the Golden Boot at the 2017 U-17 World Cup and is now the all-time leading goal scorer in the tournament’s history with 11 goals.
If Castellanos were not on the list, Sam Kerr would have been one of the obvious replacements. The Australian international made waves in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) this year: She broke the single-season scoring record with 17 goals and became the first player to score two hat tricks in one season. Her performance in 2017 earned her NWSL Most Valuable Player of the Year.
In October, Kerr suggested she wasn’t surprised when she saw FIFA’s final nominees. “It’s FIFA,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
England forward Jodie Taylor—who was the top scorer at the European championships this year—would have also been a good pick, as well.
The winner of the Best Women’s Player of the Year will be announced on Monday night (tonight) at the London Palladium Theatre.