Megan Rapinoe has never been one to shy away from speaking her mind.
The U.S. women’s national team star, part of the 2015 World Cup-winning American squad, stands up – or kneels – for what she believes is right. So when the corrupt, incompetent organization that governs her sport is (somewhat) responsible for some truly inexplicable decisions, Rapinoe is not going to keep quiet.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of Monday’s FIFA awards, where soccer’s international governing body will honor both a female and male player of the year, Rapinoe blasted FIFA as “old, male and stale.”
The criticism stems from the three nominees for the award officially known as The Best FIFA Women’s Player of 2017. American star Carli Lloyd was one of them. But also on the shortlist, along with Holland’s Lieke Martens, was Deyna Castellanos, an 18-year-old Venezuelan who doesn’t even play in a professional league.
Castellanos could some day be a great player. But her most notable accomplishment is finishing with the joint-second-most goals at the 2016 Under-17 World Cup – a tournament, by the way, that took place last September and October. The award supposedly considers performances from November through August.
“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.”
Castellanos is a sophomore at Florida State, and has never played for Venezuela’s senior national team. There are countless more deserving candidates, including Australian forward Sam Kerr, the leading scorer in the NWSL. Kerr also offered veiled criticism after being excluded: “Not surprised really, it’s FIFA,” she said.
Castellanos’ inclusion is roughly the equivalent of Amine Gouiri or Lassana Ndiaye being nominated for the men’s award alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. You’ve probably never heard of either. And that’s precisely the point. The actual third nominee for the men’s award is Neymar.
To be fair to FIFA, the organization itself isn’t behind the nominations. Coaches, players and media members from around the world vote on the awards. “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.”
Still, Rapinoe feels the governing body could have stepped in to fix the farce.
“If some random male player, who was not even a full professional, was nominated, I’m sure they would step in for that,” Rapinoe said of FIFA. “So it’s disappointing that the same hasn’t been done for us.”
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.
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