By Tom Garry, women’s football reporter in Leuven
England are calling for changes to the Ballon d’Or award ceremony’s scheduling in future so that more women’s players can attend the event.
Monday night’s glitzy awards show at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris comes in the midst of a wave of women’s international fixtures around the world, in the middle of October’s women’s international break, and the Lionesses are in action on Tuesday away against Belgium.
England and Bayern Munich midfielder Georgia Stanway, who is one of four Lionesses stars who have been nominated for the award, says they have agreed not to go to Paris so they can instead focus on preparing to face Belgium on Tuesday. Chelsea defender Millie Bright, Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly and Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps are the other three England players in contention for the prize.
“It would be really nice if things like that were organised [so] that players have the opportunity to join too,” said England head coach Sarina Wiegman. “We have to do a job, that’s what we’re here for [in Belgium] so you can’t attend that.”
Stanway said being nominated was “very cool” but added: “It is unfortunate we couldn’t be there. That is something we spoke [about] as a player group and we kind of said it would be nice in the future if it wasn’t on a matchday-1, so that we could enjoy the experience.”
Asked if the timing was frustrating, when speaking at England’s pre-match press conference, Stanway replied: “Yes it is, because it is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You never know if you are ever going to get selected for such an accolade like that again.
“So it would be really nice to enjoy the experience and be there, and feel like a star amongst the stars. But yes, unfortunately – well, not unfortunately because we have got a game tomorrow – but if it was planned a little bit better then maybe it would be easier for a lot of female footballers to be there.”
The ‘feminin’ award category was only added by the Ballon d’Or’s organisers, France Football, in 2018. That year, the ceremony hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the inaugural women’s winner, Norway icon Ada Hegerberg, was asked to twerk on stage by a presenter. This is only one prize on offer for women’s players, compared to three for men’s players, because there are additional prizes for the best male player under the age of 21 and the best male goalkeeper, but no female equivalents.
World Cup and Champions League-winning Spain and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati is the red-hot favourite to win the women’s award this year.
Spain head coach Montse Tome said earlier on Monday morning that her side’s training session times have been adjusted to allow some of her players to attend the ceremony in Paris. Spain are currently in Zurich ahead of a match against Switzerland on Tuesday.
But many other women’s nominees are not attending, or facing lengthy travel plans in order to do so. The four-time world champions the United States had a fixture against Colombia on the west coast of America in San Diego on Sunday evening. Colombia winger Linda Caicedo missed that match in order to travel to Paris.
Chelsea star Maren Mjelde told her native Norway’s TV 2 television station: “It’s not the first time it happens, so I’m not surprised. It’s sad, especially for the nominees. It should be possible to plan it better.”