FIFA neglects recognition of women, needs new award

In the global scene of soccer this week, FIFA released the shortlist of nominees for the Puskás Award. This award is given annually to what is subjectively deemed the most aesthetically “beautiful” goal scored in the calendar year. Out of the 10 nominees, only one nominee is a woman. Here is the description from FIFA’s website of Deyna Castellanos’ goal: “Deyna Castellanos scores from the halfway line directly following Cameroon’s stoppage-time equalizer to secure all three points for her team. Castellanos’ strike was voted the goal of the tournament for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.”

Compare this description with another: “France forward Olivier Giroud scores with a scorpion kick to finish off a swift counter-attack by the Gunners. Alexis Sanchez curls in a cross from outside the penalty area on the left wing for Giroud, whose audacious, acrobatic effort hits off the crossbar before bulging the inside of Wayne Hennessey’s net.”

I encourage you to watch both goals, and if you desire, the rest of the nominees. At least to my eye, there is a significant gap in quality between the Deyna Castellanos goal and many of the other male nominees. There are other nominated goals scored by men that aren’t, in my opinion, top qual- ity goals. There is a large gap in quality between the goal scored by Olivier Giroud and perhaps the goal scored by Moussa Dembele of Celtic. What I would like you, the reader, to imagine is that if there are nine nominees that are male and one female, and there is a subjective gap in quality between some of the male nominees, why aren’t there more nominees from women’s soccer?

Deyna Castellanos’ goal is a phenomenal strike, and I do believe it deserves to be nominated for the Puskás. But I have a hard time believing that there aren’t other goals of similar quality that could also be nominated—as a matter of fact, I know that there are professional women’s players out there

who are scoring fantastic goals. Two weeks ago I recall seeing Alex Morgan strike a world-class goal, one that I subjectively see as worthy of a Puskás nomination, and also more technically accomplished than Castellanos’ goal.

Alex Morgan’s goal cannot be nominated for the Puskás because of the timing of the award. But I am confident that there were other prolific goals scored by women in the past year. And yet, there is only one Puskás nominee who is a woman. There is no definite deficit in beautiful goals scored by women. But instead of recognizing more women, FIFA chooses to nominate goals like Moussa Dembele’s, which are arguably nothing more than above average.

As a part of the description of the Puskás award, the criteria for a nominee includes this phrase: “It should be awarded ‘without distinction of championship, gender or nationality.’” Yet, after seeing the nomination list for 2017, and for all previous awards, there is a discernable trend where only one nominee is a woman every year. To me, it seems that FIFA is not making an actual effort to recognize beautiful goals that are scored by women.

Deyna Castellanos’ goal, though impressive in its audacity, appears more as a token of recognition for women in soccer, to make the appearance of satisfying the criteria of the award itself. It is time for fans of the sport to recognize this indolent effort by FIFA.

A possible solution is the creation of a separate award with the same intent as the Puskás, but to recognize women. It could be named after a prolific striker, like Abby Wambach, Elisabetta Vignotto or Christine Sinclair. FIFA already has a separate player of the year award for men and women, so would it not make sense to have a separate award for the most “beautiful” goal scored by both men and women? If FIFA were to create an award, beautiful goals scored by women would no longer be overshadowed by their male counterparts.

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