The Best FIFA Women’s Awards Were A Fucking Joke, Again

Even Megan Rapinoe is questioning her status in the World XI.

The Best FIFA Football Awards were unveiled on Thursday, which means it was once again time for soccer’s world governing body to highlight just how little it knows about women’s soccer. Even Megan Rapinoe questioned her own inclusion in the award ceremony.

With the 2020 Ballon d’Or canceled, FIFA’s award show is the biggest, most prestigious in world football this year, for better or worse. Sadly, FIFA’s awards are often more of a popularity contest than an accurate representation of who had “the best” year in soccer. Never is this more evident than in who FIFA picks for its The Best Women's Football Awards.

It’s clear FIFA still doesn’t give a fuck about women’s soccer, providing them little more than lip service with these so-called “Best” awards. 

The Worst Of The Best FIFA Women's Football Awards

Let’s start with the first WoSo award given out on Thursday: Best Women’s Coach. Netherlands coach Sarina Weigman won over Chelsea’s Emma Hayes and Lyon’s Jean-Luc Vasseur. 

Weigman is an incredible coach and I wouldn’t argue if you said she’s the best coach in soccer right now. But she did not have the best 2020. 

After leading the Netherlands to the 2019 Women’s World Cup final, the Dutch struggled in 2020, failing to win a game at the Tournoi de France in March and losing a friendly to a USWNT side that hadn’t played in eight months. Sure they went unbeaten in Euro qualifying, but beating Russia, Kosovo and Estonia doesn’t make you the best coach in the world.

Meanwhile you had two coaches who actually won something in 2020 finishing runners-up. Hayes or Vasseur would’ve made sense since clubs actually played a decent number of matches this year as opposed to national teams. Or, in my slightly biased opinion, FIFA should’ve rewarded the one coach who far overachieved in 2020: Houston Dash boss James Clarkson. 

Clarkson took the only team in the NWSL without a USWNT player and won the NWSL Challenge Cup, a groundbreaking competition that showed the rest of the sports world how to play during a pandemic. But I guess that’s not worthy of winning best coach of 2020 — if only Clarkson had been named the next England national team coach, he would have won in a landslide.

Next we have the FIFA Best XI and Best Goalkeeper, which we’re combining for reasons that will soon become clear. 

Here’s the FIFA Women’s World XI:

There are some superb players on this list, many of whom are completely deserving of this 2020 honor. Tobin Heath, Vivianne Miedema, Pernille Harder, Barbara Bonansea, Wendie Renard and Lucy Bronze are all worthy of this list.

But one player stands out as a massive fuckup from FIFA: Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe had a stellar 2019 and was rightly rewarded with the Best Player award last year for being such a guiding force on the USWNT’s World Cup title. But she didn’t even play a match after March 2020. 

She played a small role in helping the USWNT qualify for the Olympics and win the SheBelieves Cup, scoring one goal in each competition. After that, she didn’t take part in any NWSL matches, including the Challenge Cup. Rapinoe couldn’t even crack The Guardian’s list of top 100 women’s footballers in 2020, but she’s on FIFA’s list of the best XI? We called out FIFA 21 for making her the highest-rated women’s player in this year’s installment, so we have to call out FIFA for including her on the Best XI.

Even Rapinoe tweeted wondering how she was even eligible for the award.

We’re a bit shocked Rapinoe even accepted the honor. But it’ll probably help her sell books and bring in more sponsors to pay for an awesome honeymoon, so she didn’t refuse the award.

Sticking with this team, I don’t understand why FIFA picks one goalkeeper for the Best XI but then gives Best Goalkeeper to another player. You’d think they’d go to the same player, but no. (FIFA does the same on the men’s side.) This year, Sarah Bouhaddi of Lyon won best keeper, but Christiane Endler of PSG was named to the Best XI. There was no room for Sari van Veenendaal or Alyssa Naeher.

And finally we come to the biggest prize: The Best FIFA Women’s Player.

FIFA has a long history of royally screwing up the selection process for this honor, which has typically been more of a popularity contest, and 2020 was no different. 

This year, Lucy Bronze was named the best player in the world. 

Bronze is a stellar player. A fullback who gets forward more than most midfielders, she brings a special dynamic to England, Manchester City and, formerly, Lyon. But calling her the best player in the world is, in my opinion, a stretch, and proof that FIFA doesn’t care about women’s soccer.

When you think about the best players in soccer, you think of the game-changing forwards (Hamm, Pelé, Ronaldo, Wambach) or match-dictating midfielders (Akers, Pirlo, Xavi, Ertz). You don’t think of rampaging fullbacks. Giving Bronze the best Women’s Player is equivalent to Philipp Lahm winning the honor at the peak of his abilities, something you know FIFA would never do. Fullbacks simply don’t affect the game as much, even the best in the game.

Bronze is a unique talent, but only British-centric voters would consider her the best in the world (even The Guardian had her at No. 3 in the world behind Harder and Miedema). 

Of course, FIFA’s women’s awards are more of a popularity contest than a true barometer of footballing greatness. The fact Vivianne Miedema wasn’t even on the three-player short list is nothing short of a travesty. (For the record, I also have gripes with the FIFA Best Men’s Awards, but they’re minor compared to the women’s honors.) 

What’s the cause of and solution to these issues with the Best FIFA Women's Football Awards? Awareness, investment and publicity. 

As Rapinoe alluded to in her tweet accepting her BS inclusion on Team of the Year, women’s soccer still has so far to go to be widely available around the world. While things are improving with CBS showing the NWSL and Ata Football helping show European leagues, the truth is that it’s still extremely difficult to watch women’s soccer, especially compared to the glut of men’s soccer available. 

This doesn’t excuse FIFA’s pathetic attempts at honoring women’s soccer, but it’s how FIFA fixes its broken system.

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