24 September 2019
Newly crowned FIFA Women's Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe speaking at the awards ceremony
Megan Rapinoe has been crowned FIFA Women's Player of the Year 2019 - and immediately urged a host of leading footballers and coaches to use their platform as worldwide stars to "change the world for better".
Rapinoe won the award thanks to her stunning performances in the USA's World Cup-winning campaign during which she claimed both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball for top scorer and best player.
She beat off strong competition to win the prestigious FIFA award ahead of fellow American Alex Morgan and England's Lucy Bronze.
Lyon right-back Bronze, 27, was named in the women's team of the year - the only English player to feature.
Rapinoe's international boss, Jill Ellis, took the women's coach award.
Speaking at the ceremony at La Scala in Milan, Rapinoe said she drew inspiration from, amongst others, Iran's 'Blue Girl,' who set herself on fire and later died after being charged with "'openly committing a sinful act by appearing in public without a hijab'" when she attempted to enter a stadium "dressed as a man" in March.
"I was going to say some of the stories that have inspired me most this year; Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly and their incredible performances on the field, but the way that they've taken on the disgusting racism that they have to face this year, but probably for their whole lives," she commented.
"The young Iranian woman who eventually set herself on fire because she wasn't able to go to the game. The one out MLS player, Mr. (Collin) Martin, and the countless other female out LGBTQ players who fight so hard every day just to play the sport that they love, but be also fight the rampant homophobia that we have.
"Those are all the stories that inspire me so much. But they also admittedly make me a little bit sad and a little bit disappointed."
She continued, "I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly were as outraged about racism as they were.
"If everybody else was as outraged about homophobia, as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay, or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women's game other than just women.
"That would be the most inspiring thing to me. I feel like that's my ask of everybody, we have such an incredible opportunity being professional football players.
"We have so much success, financial and otherwise, we have incredible platforms. I asked everyone here, because I think everyone in this room has that crown that they're bearing, lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success.
"We have a unique opportunity in football, different to any other sport in the world, to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better. So that's my charge to everyone. I hope you take that to heart and just do something, do anything. We have incredible power in this room."
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