In her exclusive column for GiveMeSport, England and Manchester City superstar Lucy Bronze picks her Ballon d’Or winners and explains why women’s football awards should not be an afterthought.
During my career I’ve been lucky enough to be nominated for a number of individual awards, including the Ballon d’Or Féminin.
I’m not the best at complimenting myself, so I normally really appreciate when I’m nominated for an accolade. It gives me reassurance that I’m doing something right, and that I’m on the right path.
I think it’s the same for every player, especially those that don’t score a lot of goals. Sometimes goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders don’t get as much recognition as goalscorers, so it can be really gratifying to win an award.
It’s not just your teammates recognising your ability. It’s players, coaches and members of the media, all with a different array of opinions, agreeing that you’re one of the best in the world. It’s a nice compliment!
I’m really looking forward to seeing who goes home with silverware at the Ballon d’Or ceremony this evening.
I’m backing Lionel Messi for the men’s award, although it could also be given to super striker Robert Lewandowski. The women’s accolade will surely go to one of Barcelona’s many star players.
I have Alexia Putellas down as my winner. She’s really good technically, has incredible vision, and boasts a brilliant footballing brain.
Alexia can score goals, she can set up goals, and I think she’s the best in the world on the ball. I played against her in the Champions League earlier in the year, so I know just how good she is.
I think her Barcelona teammate, Jennifer Hermoso, also has a decent chance of winning. Goalscorers like Hermoso are more likely to win these awards, but I think she’s a really good player regardless.
In my opinion, Alexia was more pivotal than Hermoso towards Barcelona’s success last season, so she’s my pick. I must say, however, that I was really shocked when I didn’t see Caroline Graham Hansen on the list.
When we played against Barcelona, I thought she was the best player across both legs, and she’s been impressive for the club all year.
Perhaps they didn’t want to nominate too many Barcelona players. But when I played for Lyon, half the team was on the shortlist!
So, I’m very surprised Graham Hansen isn’t up for the award. If I had a vote, she would definitely be in my top three.
Importance of Ballon d’Or Féminin
The introduction of the Ballon d’Or Féminin in 2018 was very significant. I know firsthand how huge it can be for women’s football.
I still remember Ada Hegerberg’s speech to this day. It was incredible. Everybody in the room had their eyes locked on her. It made a big splash in the world of football, and not just in the women’s game.
All of the stars in men’s football attend the ceremony. They see the women’s players and get to know who they are – it improves the connection between men and women’s football.
It’s a shame the Ballon d’Or Féminin has only been running for the past three years. There are so many players who should have been celebrated in years gone by.
The Ballon d’Or is part of history – it’s something everyone remembers. People always talk about how many times Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo have won the award. Their names are literally written in history.
Not many female players have that level of acknowledgement. Stars such as Kelly Smith would have almost definitely won a Ballon d’Or, so it’s sad they don’t have their names written in history too.
Making sure women’s football is not an afterthought
I think a lot more can be done to ensure that women’s football awards don’t come across as a mere afterthought.
I’ve had firsthand experience of being treated differently to male nominees, even when I’ve been in the top three for an award and they haven’t.
Sometimes, I feel reluctant to go to award ceremonies because a lot of the female players aren’t treated the same as their male counterparts, and that really shouldn’t be the case.
This year, the majority of Ballon d’Or Féminin nominees are unable to attend the ceremony because of a clash with the international break. What’s the point of having a women’s award if they can’t be there in person?
One of the reasons for a women’s award is so we can share the stage with male footballers, but that’s completely lost if the female players can’t make the ceremony.
They lose out on that special moment where they have the stage, and everything is about celebrating their achievements. The men get it, so why shouldn’t we?
I don’t think we should sit here and be too thankful for something that still isn’t where it needs to be. Success should be celebrated equally. Women’s football awards shouldn’t seem like an afterthought.