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Unworthy winner? Fans claim Rapinoe Ballon d’Or award based on politics rather than performances

Unworthy winner? Fans claim Rapinoe Ballon d’Or award based on politics rather than performances
Football fans and pundits have questioned US forward Megan Rapinoe's Ballon d’Or prize for the world’s best female player, claiming it was based on “politics” and “a popularity contest” rather than performances on the pitch.

Rapinoe, 34, was named the second recipient of France Football magazine’s top women's accolade at a glitzy ceremony in Paris on Monday night.

The star herself was not in attendance, instead sending a video message to the assembled great and the good of the football world.

"It's absolutely incredible, congrats to the other nominees,” Rapinoe said. “I can't believe I'm the one winning in this field, it's been an incredible year. I want to thank my teammates and the US federation."

Rapinoe beat England and Lyon defender Lucy Bronze to the award, while US teammate Alex Morgan finished third.

Last year’s inaugural winner of the accolade, Lyon and Norway star Ada Hegerberg, finished fourth, while Arsenal’s Dutch markswoman Vivianne Miedema completed the top five. 

Rapinoe also scooped the FIFA Best Women’s Player prize in September, on the back of captaining the US to World Cup glory in France in the summer, where she won the Golden Boot for top scorer and the Golden Ball for best player.

She was later seen holding the trophy up at a parade and modestly proclaiming “I deserve this, I deserve this.”

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After her most recent triumph at the Theatre du Châtelet in the French capital, the platitudes duly flowed in for Rapinoe - but not just for her footballing talents. 

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama was among those to send congratulations, somewhat cringingly hailing Rapinoe for “constantly raising the bar for us all, and doing it flawlessly... 

"Girl you make me so proud, and I love you,” Obama gushed, signing off. 

And if that seemed like an overtly politically endorsement, that’s where the problem lay with many regarding Rapinoe's Ballon d'Or recognition.

Indeed, fans and pundits alike have questioned whether proceedings in Paris had been decided by the pink-haired tub-thumper's political posturing, rather than actual performances on the pitch.

Openly gay, Rapinoe has frequently used her platform to espouse social equality while targeting US President Donald Trump.

Among the critics of her Ballon d'Or award was former US women’s international Ella Masar, who tweeted:  

“We have come SO far in the women’s game but seriously, when will it stop being a POPULARITY contest?!? 4 the men, it’s stats, it’s numbers for country AND club, but for women’s ... well it can be seen as a jk. They’re incredible players, absolutely, but the best 4 the year?! Hmmm.”

Rapinoe’s World Cup win with the US clearly carried serious clout, but looking at the winger's record in that tournament, many felt she had not even been her country's best player.

Of Rapinoe's six World Cup goals, three came from the penalty spot, while fans namechecked teammates such as Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, and Rose Lavelle as putting in better performances throughout the tournament. (Lavelle was eighth in the Ballon d’Or rankings, while Dunn and Ertz did not even make the top 20.)

Digging into the club stats, observers noted that Reign FC player Rapinoe has failed to score or assist in six appearances for her team in a season which has been disrupted by international duty and injury.   

Australian sensation Sam Kerr, who recently signed for Chelsea, banged in 20 goals in Chicago Red Stars' run to the US women's championship final, but only managed seventh in the Ballon d'Or rankings. 

Going beyond that, Dutch goal machine Vivianne Miedema, a beaten World Cup finalist and fifth in the France Football vote, has netted 49 times for club and country in 2019.  

‘You can’t win a championship without gays’ – US Women’s World Cup star Megan Rapinoe

None of those players, however, are in the same social justice league as Rapinoe.  

All of this has left Ballon d’Or organizers and the 50 journalists who selected the women’s winner open to accusations that political posturing ultimately carried more weight than on-pitch performances.

So while Rapinoe and her fawning fanbase may well scream again that she “deserves this,” many others disagree.

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