Rapinoe blasts lack of respect towards women's game ahead of World Cup final

Andy SCOTT
US star Megan Rapinoe hit out at FIFA for showing a lack of respect before her team face the Netherlands in the women's World Cup final on Sunday (AFP Photo/FRANCK FIFE)
US star Megan Rapinoe hit out at FIFA for showing a lack of respect before her team face the Netherlands in the women's World Cup final on Sunday (AFP Photo/FRANCK FIFE)

Lyon (AFP) - USA star Megan Rapinoe hit out on Saturday at the scheduling of the women's World Cup final on the same day as two major men's international finals and said FIFA president Gianni Infantino's pledge to double the prize fund for the tournament is not enough.

"It's terrible scheduling for everyone. That's a terrible idea to put everything on the same day, in every way," Rapinoe said at a press conference as the USA aim to retain the World Cup in the final against the Netherlands in Lyon on Sunday.

The game is being played at 1500 GMT, just hours before Brazil take on Peru in Rio de Janeiro in the final of the Copa America. Later, the USA men's team will attempt to retain the CONCACAF Gold Cup when they meet Mexico in the final in Chicago.

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"There are two other finals going on but this is the World Cup final, this is like, cancel-everything day," said the outspoken 34-year-old midfielder.

"I don't think that we feel the same level of respect certainly that FIFA has for the men and just in general."

In response, a FIFA spokesperson said that the scheduling of the finals had been arranged after "a comprehensive consultancy process" involving "all key stakeholders" and pointed out that efforts were made to avoid any direct clashes.

Rapinoe was speaking 24 hours after Infantino hailed a "phenomenal" tournament in France and announced a set of proposals for the future of the women's game.

Among them was a pledge to double prize money for the women's World Cup in time for the next tournament in 2023.

An overall contribution of $50 million was made for this year's tournament, which included doubling the prize money from $15 million to $30 million.

However, the prize money for the 2018 men's World Cup in Russia was $400 million, and Infantino also hopes to increase the women's tournament from 24 teams to 32.

- 'Not fair' -

"It certainly is not fair. We should double it now and use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time," Rapinoe, one of the US team's co-captains, said.

"I understand that for a lot of different reasons the men's game financially is far (more) advanced than the women's game, but if you really let that gap grow, are you scheduling three finals on the same day? No, you're not.

"Are you letting federations have their teams play two games in the four years between each tournament? No, you're not.

"The resources are there and I think the willingness and the brainpower is all there and the people wanting to work in the women's game and make it as good as we can, it's all there.

"It's just a matter of wanting to do it and caring enough about it to make it happen.

"I mean we're making a World Cup in Qatar happen, which shows you the kind of care they have about the men's World Cup considering all of the issues that are happening there."

The pink-haired Rapinoe has been one of the stars of the World Cup on and off the field, although she missed her team's 2-1 semi-final win over England due to a hamstring injury.

"I expect to be good to go for tomorrow and I'm very excited about that opportunity," she said when asked if she would be ready to face the Netherlands.

A victory in the final will lead to more questions about whether any of her teammates will accept an invitation to the White House from Donald Trump.

"I haven't spoken to everyone about it, obviously not myself, not Ali Krieger, and I suspect not many, if any, of the other players," she replied when asked on Saturday.

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