Ballon d’Or open to women for first time

A women’s Ballon d’Or will be launched this year, marking the first occasion the prestigious award will be open to female footballers.

France Football, the magazine responsible for handing out the award, gave the first Ballon d’Or to Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956.

The award has only been open to male footballers since then, but a female equivalent will now be presented at France Football’s awards ceremony on December 3 in Paris.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Pascal Ferre, told The Associated Press: “Women’s soccer is a booming discipline that deserves the same respect as men’s soccer. It’s coming to maturity and growing bigger.

“More than 760m TV viewers watched games at the last women’s World Cup in 2015. This did not happen by chance.”

Fifteen nominees will be shortlisted by France Football on October 8, after which a panel of journalists specialising in women’s football will choose who they feel has been the outstanding female footballer of 2018.

Ferre explained: “The jury won’t be the same as the jury voting for the men. Only experts can vote.

“I’m confident we will get a jury of about 40 journalists, from countries where women’s soccer is growing.”

FIFA, which hands out its own end-of-year awards, already gives a trophy to who they consider to be the best female footballer. Lieke Martens, the Barcelona and Netherlands midfielder, won in 2017.

Ferre adds the female players he has spoken to have been positive about France Football’s decision, saying: “They are thrilled and can’t wait for it.

“They are very proud to see that the world of soccer considers that women should be treated in the same respect as men.”

The magazine is also launching an award for the best young player of the year, which will be named after Raymond Kopa – the first French Ballon d’Or winner who passed away last year.

A shortlist of 10 U21 players will be selected, before a panel of former Ballon d’Or winners decides on the victor. 

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