Furious World Cup U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe ripped the leadership of the world soccer administrative body as “old, male and stale” in a BBC interview Monday.
FIFA, the organization headquartered in Switzerland that runs the World Cup and the matches leading up to it as well as several others, “doesn’t really care” about female soccer players, Rapinoe said flatly.
Rapinoe spoke out to the BBC after the world body chose a little-known amateur striker from Venezuela — 18-year-old Deyna Castellanos, who also plays for Florida State University — for its female player-of-the-year shortlist. U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd and Dutch forward Lieke Martens were also named. They both play in professional leagues. Many other top professional scorers were overlooked.
“The award just doesn’t hold a lot of weight when you’ve got someone on the list I’ve never heard of,” said Rapinoe, who won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2012 and played on the winning 2015 World Cup team. “If some random male player who was not even a full professional was nominated, I’m sure [FIFA] would step in for that. It’s disappointing that the same hasn’t been done for us,” she told the BBC.
“It signals to us and it signals to the rest of the world that FIFA doesn’t really care,” she said.
A FIFA statement said the choices are made by fans and coaches with a certain weighted value system. The statement said that leaders would “take this feedback on board in future editions of The Best Awards.”
The latest FIFA slight is one of a litany of complaints by women in soccer. U.S. female soccer stars are paid a fraction of what men are paid by U.S. Soccer, which is part of FIFA, even though the U.S. men’s team didn’t make it the World Cup this year, for the first time since 1986. The women’s team won the last World Cup in 2015. The U.S. TV audience for the matches were the biggest in U.S. soccer history.
U.S. women won the World Cup in 2015 playing on artificial turf, a surface that tends to cause more injuries than natural grass. Questions have also been raised about possible links between artificial turf and cancer.
Men have never played World Cup matches on artificial turf. The U.S. women sued to switch to real turf before the 2015 World Cup but later dropped the action because they weren’t optimistic about their chances of winning the lawsuit.
Rapinoe last year joined four other players who filed a wage discrimination complaint against U.S. soccer, saying they were getting 40 percent of what men were being paid. World Cup bonuses have been far more skewed. In 1998, each U.S. women’s team player got a $2,500 bonus for making the World Cup team — and winning the cup. The men each got a $20,000 bonus, even though they finished last.
Earlier this year, U.S. Soccer agreed to increase women’s pay, though they still won’t get pay parity with the men, The New York Times reported.
Rapinoe, who plays for the Seattle Reign, last year became the first professional soccer player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.