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Spain’s Aitana Bonmati wins Ballon d’Or Feminin amid scheduling controversy

Bonmati beats Miedema and Harder to claim the award

Spain and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati has won the 2023 Ballon d’Or Feminin, becoming the second Spanish woman to receive the prestigious award after her teammate Alexia Putellas, who won it in 2021 and 2022. Bonmati beat Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema and Chelsea’s Pernille Harder, who finished second and third respectively, in the voting by a panel of journalists.

Bonmati had a stellar year with both club and country, winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the domestic treble with Barcelona. She also scored 21 goals in 57 appearances for Spain, helping them qualify for the 2024 Olympics. She was named the best player of the World Cup, where she scored six goals and assisted four more.

Bonmati received the award at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on Monday, alongside Lionel Messi, who won his eighth Ballon d’Or. She thanked her teammates, coaches, family, and fans for their support and dedicated the award to all the girls who dream of playing football.

Spain’s Aitana Bonmati wins Ballon d’Or Feminin amid scheduling controversy

Guardiola compares Bonmati to Iniesta

Bonmati’s talent and style of play have drawn comparisons to Spanish men’s football legend Andres Iniesta, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2010. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who coached Iniesta at Barcelona, praised Bonmati as the “Iniesta of Spanish women’s football” and said she deserved the award.

“She is a fantastic player, very intelligent, very skillful, very creative. She can play in different positions, she can score goals, she can create chances. She is a joy to watch,” Guardiola said.

Guardiola also said that Bonmati’s success was a testament to the growth and development of women’s football in Spain, which has produced some of the best players in the world in recent years.

Scheduling clash sparks criticism

However, not everything was smooth sailing for the Ballon d’Or ceremony, as many of the women’s nominees were unable to attend due to a scheduling clash with the international break. The ceremony was held on Monday, November 1st, while many of the players had matches on Tuesday or Wednesday with their national teams.

This meant that players like Miedema, Harder, Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Caroline Graham Hansen, and Jenni Hermoso had to miss the event or leave early. Some of them expressed their frustration on social media, saying that they felt disrespected and ignored by the organizers.

The timing of the ceremony also drew criticism from fans, journalists, coaches, and former players, who accused France Football, the magazine that organizes the Ballon d’Or, of not caring enough about women’s football and treating it as an afterthought. They pointed out that the men’s nominees did not have any international commitments and that some of them even played for their clubs on Saturday or Sunday before flying to Paris.

They also noted that France Football had invited tennis star Novak Djokovic to present the women’s award, while Messi received his award from former Ballon d’Or winner Robert Lewandowski. They argued that this showed a lack of respect for women’s football and its history.

France Football defended its decision to hold the ceremony on Monday, saying that it was the only available date that did not conflict with other major events or holidays. It also said that it had consulted with FIFA and UEFA before choosing the date and that it had tried to accommodate as many players as possible.

However, many observers were not convinced by these explanations and called for a change in the future to ensure that women’s football gets the recognition and attention it deserves.

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