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Rapinoe urges fellow footballers to speak out over issues in the game

Megan Rapinoe highlighted Raheem Sterling’s stand against racism as an inspiring moment in a stirring speech at the Best FIFA Football awards in Milan.

Rapinoe played a key role in the United States lifting the Women’s World Cup this summer, claiming the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball for best player.

After being announced as best women’s player at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the 34-year-old stole the show with a rousing speech during which she mentioned various issues within the game, including racism, homophobia and equal pay.

Megan Rapinoe receives the Best FIFA Women’s player award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino

Megan Rapinoe receives the Best FIFA Women’s player award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Rapinoe said: “I was going to say some of the stories that have inspired me most this year – Raheem Sterling and (Napoli defender Kalidou) Koulibaly, their incredible performances on the field, but the way that they have taken on the disgusting racism that they have to face, this year but probably for their whole lives.

“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, if they were as outraged about racism as they were.

“If everybody 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.

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“I feel like that’s my ask of everybody. We have such an incredible opportunity, being professional football players. We have incredible platforms. I ask everyone here – lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success.

“We have a unique opportunity in football to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, and just do something, do anything. We have incredible power in this room.”

Rapinoe won her award ahead of international team-mate Alex Morgan, who also scored six goals during the summer’s tournament in France, and England’s Lucy Bronze, who was the Silver Ball winner at the World Cup.

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Barcelona star Lionel Messi was named FIFA’s men’s player of the year for a record sixth time after a 2018-19 season in which he scored 51 goals for the club and helped them win LaLiga. The Argentina international pipped Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk to the prize.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took the men’s coach award, having last term guided his side to Champions League glory and seen them narrowly miss out on the Premier League title, won by Manchester City.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, whose team Liverpool defeated in the Champions League final, and City’s Pep Guardiola had also been shortlisted.