Carli Lloyd was nominated as a finalist for the FIFA Best women’s player award for 2017, which has not exactly gone over well with many fans of the women’s game. However, Dutch footballer Lieke Martens ultimately took home the prize after a sparkling effort in the 2017 Euros and an excellent club season. If you’re wondering why Lloyd not winning might be a good thing, let’s look at the three finalists for FIFA Best in 2017:
Castellanos is 18 and a baller college athlete, but she has never represented her country at the full senior or the U20 level. She’s a talented young player with a bright future ahead of her, but if you haven’t been tested against the world’s best, you can’t conceivably be the world’s best. Her inclusion in this list is indeed yet another sign that “FIFA doesn’t care about women’s football.” There’s also the fact that the voting period for women covers November 20, 2016 to August 6, 2017. Her last major tournament performance was the U17 Women’s World Cup, which ended on October 21, 2016, and yet her highlight reel during the presentation ceremony in London used footage from that tournament.
Carli Lloyd definitely has the strength of her name going for her, including being the incumbent FIFA Best winner from 2016 and being named FIFA world Player of the Year in 2015. But in 2017 she didn’t particularly do much. She has the lack of a major tournament working against her here, but even for her clubs, the Houston Dash and Manchester City, she was good at best and average at worst. She helped Man City win the FA Cup, make a decent run in Champions League, and come second overall in the Spring Series (a bridging season to help the WSL shift from a summer to a winter league). She also earned a three-game suspension for elbowing a player in the head while Man City was up 5-1 over Yeovil and scored two goals in eight games for Houston. For the USWNT, she has one goal and two assists in 11 games and her one goal was part of a 5-1 pasting of Russia in April. This is not barnburner stuff.
Lieke Martens scored three goals for the Netherlands during the Euros and was awarded the Golden Ball as her country ultimately won the whole thing. She was also named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and bagged eight goals in 11 games for FC Rosengard in 2017. Also she helped her country win the Euros. It’s not entirely fair that there’s such a heavy emphasis on major tournaments as opposed to taking outstanding club performances more into consideration, but neither Lloyd nor Castellanos can really touch Martens for country or for club.
The whole nomination process, starting from the shortlist of 10, has exposed not just FIFA’s lack of attention to the women’s game, but the general lack of attention from multiple areas compounded by the overall lack of coverage of the women’s game, because the shortlist was picked by a panel of women’s “experts” representing all six confederations including Mia Hamm, Maia Jackman, Nadine Kessler, Jacqueline Shipanga, Sissi, and Sun Wen. How did Castellanos and Lloyd get onto a list with the likes of Pernille Harder, Lucy Bronze, Sam Kerr, and Wendie Renard? Perhaps Castellanos’ U17WWC performance in 2016 really stuck out in the minds of the panel (which is still problematic given the voting period) or someone is a big FSU fan, and we all know Lloyd has immense cachet thanks to the 2015 World Cup, but the following vote to narrow it down to the top three should have quickly eliminated them both. That vote was carried out by national team coaches, captains, select media, and fans, and by now anyone who pays attention to the process knows that it’s pretty much broken.
At the very least, the best option of the final three ended up winning. Lloyd herself was gracious about it.
You can still argue for Harder or Kerr or Miedema but you can also make a very convincing argument for Martens, as opposed to there being no contest with Lloyd and Castellanos. So, another year, another round of disrespect for the women’s game from FIFA barely ameliorated by Martens winning. I leave you with the words of Ron Swanson: