A picture with the US captain, Megan Rapinoe.
The 34-year-old, Ballon D’Or winner has been at the forefront of women’s sport over the last twelve months. Her excellence on the pitch earnt her the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, as she captained the US team to win the entire tournament. This ensured Rapinoe being named in the FIFA Women’s World XI. She also received the Sports Illustrated Player of the Year and achieved the Best NWSL Player ESPY Award. Not a bad year, really.
Perhaps the only thing that surpasses her remarkable ability on the pitch, is the way that she inspires and unites people off the pitch. She has become a spokesperson for those who are marginalised. She stands up for those who face discrimination. She has used her platform in a way that many athletes have not bothered to, and has become as much of an activist as she is an athlete.
In 2016, when Colin Kaepernick faced backlash over his decision to kneel during the national anthem, Rapinoe showed solidarity by also taking a knee, prior to her NWSL game. At the time, she said, “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it”. This summer, she told journalists in no uncertain terms that, should she win the World Cup, she would not be going to the “fucking White House”.
This led to criticism from the likes of Donald Trump and Piers Morgan. Nevertheless, Megan Rapinoe reacted in the only way that she knows how. Unapologetic and honest. She described herself as “deeply American”, pointing to the ideals that the country was founded on. She referred to pride, to truth and to striving for better. She went on to jokingly sympathise with Trump, suggesting that it must be hard for him as the US team are everything that he loves, as serial winners, “except for the fact that they are women”.
She further displayed her enthusiasm and desire to protest injustice with her fight against the US Soccer Federation over equal pay. Rapinoe stated simply that anything less than equal pay wouldn’t be accepted. The lawsuit also asks for, “at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment”. Comparing the success of the male and female teams would lead you to believe that the women’s team, as the most successful team in the history of women’s football, should surely be the better paid of the two, however, this is not the case and Rapinoe is only too happy to contest this unfairness.
Whilst Rapinoe can divide opinion, people who stand for something often do, if I were ever in trouble, I can think of no one that I would rather have in my corner than the pink-haired, 5ft 5'' American who has the guts to confront all manner of injustice, face-on and with passion and determination. She would also be great to have on the 5-a-side team.