Hey, FIFA voters, No. 20 is Sam Kerr and she deserved to be a finalist for the Best Woman’s Player Award. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Just how cannot Sam Kerr not be among the three best women’s soccer players on this planet?
That thought is going through the minds of many of her Chicago Red Stars and Australian national team teammates, many confounded defenders and goalkeepers in the National Women’s Soccer League and many Matilda soccer fans.
What the heck happened?
Sounds like a popularity contest to me as national coaches and captains, select members of the media and fans voted in four evenly weighted categories for The Best FIFA Women’s Player.
Now, if those four paragraphs sound familiar, they should. I wrote that Sept. 22, 2017, questioning FIFA’s process. I substituted the Chicago Red Stars for Sky Blue FC since Kerr was traded during the offseason.
The process is flawed.
The voting was broken down into four sectors, with each getting 25 percent of the vote: national team coaches, national team captains, select media representatives and online vote.
Let’s take a look at this year’s finalists:
* Ada Hegerberg, a Norwegian international forward, has been a vital member of Olympique Lyonnais, which captured the 20-17-18 UEFA Women’s Champions League crown. Lyon also has won the women’s first division title 12 years running. The 23-year-old forward has found the net 82 times in 107 matches for her club side since 2014 and has scored 38 goals in 66 international appearances for Norway. A great choice.
* Dzsenifer Marozsán, the captain of the German national team who is the midfield general of Olympique Lyonnais. The 26-year-old She has made 86 appearances for Germany since 2016. Again, another great choice.
* Marta. Marta? Yes, Marta. A great player, a great career, a future Hall of Famer. She is a five-time FIFA women’s player of the year. She holds the Women’s World Cup career goal-scoring record with 15 goals. She got in via reputation, not many or any grand accomplishments in the past 12 months. Let’s see. What has Marta done for her NWSL club, Orlando Pride this season? Oh yeah, she has scored four goals and added four assists in 17 appearances for a seventh-place club (out of nine) with a 8-9-6 record and 30 points. Perhaps she is a bit embarrassed being among the final three.
Kerr? She has been nothing but sensational for the Red Stars in one of the best women’s leagues in the world. She leads the NWSL with 14 goals, coming off another fabulous August as player of the month.
She also has done some damage for Australia, one of the best national teams in the world.
In case you’re wondering, here were last year’s finalists:
* Deyna Castellanos is an 18-year-old Venezuelan international who was a vital member of her team at the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, winning the Bronze Ball and Bronze Boot. Castellanos, who hadn’t much at the high level, at least not yet. She starred for the Santa Clarita Blue Heart in United Women’s Soccer, earning first-team all-star honors in 2017. She has played for Florida State. She might have gotten there on potential, but I have never heard of anyone winning an international award on potential.
* Two-time winner Carli Lloyd did not enjoy the dominant year in 2017 she had in 2015, when she was a one-woman wrecking crew for the Women’s World Cup U.S. championship team. Lloyd helped ManCity to the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals and as the team captured the FA Women’s Cup for the first time. Great feats. But, with all due respect to one of the greatest women’s soccer players in the world, the Manchester City standout made the final three on reputation.
* And then there was Lieke Martens, who has performed for FC Rosengard and FC Barcelona, who earned the Golden Ball while scoring three times for the Netherlands side that captured the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro crown. She won the Best award in 2017, thank heaven.
There always have been discrepancies in the women’s player of the year voting because I have seen this occur many times in the past — players get votes that they don’t necessarily deserve.
At one time, many national team coaches of women’s teams at one time did not know what was happening around the world.
About 15 years ago, I remember looking at the women’s coaches’ ballots. Many votes were right on target for some of the best players on the planet. On others, there were names I was not familiar with. At least ballot had the name Michelle Akers. That might be all fine and dandy, but the U.S. National Hall of Famer had been retired for two years.
I am looking forward to looking at the ballots again on who voted for who when the award is announced Sept. 24.
All I know is that FIFA needs a better system. This shouldn’t be happening at the highest level of soccer.
It’s sham and a shame.
History like this shouldn’t be repeating itself with an organization like FIFA, which once again is embarrassed by the results. It looks like a junior high school popularity contest and I apologize to some middle schools that have candidates that win by merit.
Heaven forbid if Marta wins the award.
So how do we correct this in 2019?
Well, I hope Kerr and Australia, one of the best women’s national sides on the planet, live up to their potential and make a deep run in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if Kerr puts in a scintillating performance or two with a spectacular goal or two or three thrown in here and there.
After all, the best revenge is always living well, and I can’t think of a better way of living well than winning.