With a “deep sense of peace and gratitude,” Megan Rapinoe said on social media this Saturday that she has decided this season will be her last. “Football has taken me all over the world in my career and I’ve met amazing people. I’m incredibly grateful to have been part of a generation of players whose departure is without a doubt a better game than when it started.” Rapinoe quoted in a statement from the US association.
The crowning glory should be the football World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which will be played from July 20th to August 20th. There the 38-year-old Rapinoe can become world champion for the third time in a row with the US team after 2015 and 2019. At the past World Cups in France, she was top scorer and best player of the tournament. She then also won the Ballon d’Or for World Player of the Year.
Megan Rapinoe: Exceptional athlete and political activist
But Rapinoe didn’t just score on the soccer field: She campaigned for equal pay, equal pay for female and male athletes, fought for abortion rights and was committed to the LGBTQ+ community. In 2016, she was the first white professional and first woman to kneel during the US national anthem in solidarity with US football player Colin Kaepernick to take a stand against police violence and racial discrimination. She caused a stir during the 2019 World Cup when she announced that she would not go to the White House to shake hands with the Republican in protest against the then US President Donald Trump, even in the event of a World Cup triumph.
“I’m not going to the fucking White House,” she said at the time. “I’m not going to the damn White House.” Their justification: Trump is a sexist and racist. The then US President then attacked the athlete in several tweets. “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” he wrote at the time, among other things.
Professionalization in women’s football – with gaps
Rapinoe plays in the US National Women’s Soccer League OL Reign, a Seattle-area club. But she celebrated her greatest successes with the US team – maybe another and then last time on August 20 in Sydney.
Even before the World Cup, Rapinoe was sure that it would be an outstanding tournament. “I think like any World Cup, this will be by far the best World Cup, you’ll see the best product on the field,” Rapinoe said at the US team’s media day in late June. The reason is the ever-progressing professionalization in women’s football. This ensures “that the players are able to really just focus on the game, going out there and providing the entertainment that everyone wants.”
The fact that this has apparently still not reached all associations makes Rapinoe angry. She criticized the Jamaican federation, whose women’s team had to collect money with a fundraiser to finance its World Cup preparations. “It just doesn’t have to be that way,” Rapinoe said. “But I think it’s getting better. I think there are a lot more resources that these teams can draw on.”
At her farewell performance in Australia and New Zealand, she believes that she and the US team can win the third World Cup in a row. “This is not a team that rests on its laurels,” she said. “It’s always about the next game, the next step forward we can make, the next thing we can fight for.”
asz/cw (dpa, SID)