US co-captain and World Cup hero Megan Rapinoe has called on fellow footballers to tackle racism, sexism and homophobia in the sport after winning Fifa’s top women’s player award.
She paid tribute to fellow players Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly for taking a stand against discrimination, and called on others to share their outrage and “use this game to actually change the world for better”.
United States national team star Megan Rapinoe claimed FIFA’s The Best award, which is given to the top women’s player, at a ceremony in Milan on Monday.
Rapinoe, 34, led the U.S. to their fourth World Cup title this summer in France. She won the Golden Ball award for best player at the tournament and the Golden Boot for most goals (six).
She beat out U.S. teammate Alex Morgan and England forward Lucy Bronze for The Best award.
The victory in France was the second consecutive World Cup title for Rapinoe, who was part of the USWNT squad in 2015. She also won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
“I’m at a loss for words,” she said. “This was an incredible year for women’s football, for those who just noticed you are a bit late to the party. It truly was incredible, to be part of the World Cup, the enthusiasm we had was amazing.”
Off the pitch, Rapinoe has been one of the leading voices in the USWNT’s fight for equal pay with their male counterparts. She has also spoken out on a number of political issues in the country.
“I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room.”
Rapinoe plays at NWSL club Reign FC in Tacoma, Washington, but has been linked to a move to Barcelona. She is the fourth American to win the honor following Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Carli Lloyd.
Other The Best winners included U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who announced she’ll be stepping down in October. Ellis was coach of the United States’ back-to-back title teams.
All three player nominees were selected to the women’s team of the year. The goalkeeper is Sari van Veenendaal of Atletico Madrid and the Netherlands. The back four consists of Bronze (England, Lyon), Wendie Renard (France, Lyon), Nilla Fischer (Sweden, Linkoping) and Kelley O’Hara (United States, Utah Royals). The midfield features Amandine Henry (France, Lyon), Julie Ertz (United States, Chicago Red Stars) and Rose Lavelle (United States, Washington Spirit). Joining Rapinoe and Morgan (Orlando FC) up front was Marta (Brazil, Orlando Pride).