After downing Dutch, US star Megan Rapinoe takes fight to Fifa
World Cup star Rapinoe is the Best Player on the pitch and most important off it
As the United States began celebrating their Women's World Cup win over Holland yesterday morning (Singapore time), Fifa president Gianni Infantino strode out onto the field with French president Emmanuel Macron.
The boos ringing out from the stands at the Stade de Lyon were initially directed at Macron, a reflection of the current political mood in France, but it wasn't long before Infantino also got a reminder of the issues facing him.
"Equal pay, equal pay!" chanted the US fans behind the goal, and while Infantino could perhaps tell himself that those words related to the US team's long-running dispute over compensation with their own national federation, the Fifa president is surely under no illusion that the days when the women's game was glad just to have opportunities to perform are long over.
Last Friday, he announced that, as part of renewed investment in the women's game, US$1 billion (S$1.4b) would be spent over the next four-year cycle. It is double the sum invested over the last four years.
The prize money for the next Women's World Cup would also be doubled from US$30 million to US$60 million.
But just 24 hours later, United States co-captain Megan Rapinoe used a Fifa-organised press conference to point out how the men would still receive much more in prize money - US$440 million - at their next World Cup in 2022.
The Player of the Tournament and Top Scorer also took aim at the governing body over the scheduling of two men's continental competition finals on the same day as the women's showpiece, and suggested that Fifa didn't "care" about the women's game and were not showing enough "respect".
"Everyone is kind of asking what's next and what we want to come of all of this, and it's to stop having the conversation about equal pay and are we worth it," said Rapinoe, who along with Rose Lavelle, found the net against Holland.
"What are we going to do about it? It's time to sit down with everyone and get to work," she said, mentioning Infantino as well as US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro.
"This game has done so much for all of us, we've put so much into it. I think it's a testament to the quality on the field, I don't think everything else is matching that."
On Infantino's reception, she added: "I'm down with the boos... a little public shame never hurt anybody."
Rapinoe seems to have a supporter in US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted: "The Women's National Team showed us their greatness - now show them the money."
The Women's World Cup has been a resounding success, with stadia over 75 per cent full throughout and a crowd of 57,900 watching the final in Lyon.
Even more impressive have been the record-smashing television ratings.
In the past, the United States has enjoyed huge numbers for the tournament, given the success of their team, but the increasing numbers for countries such as England, France and Italy show the appetite for top women's games is now established in Western Europe. - AFP, REUTERS