Labbe to carry Canada colours alone at FIFA awards as Priestman, Sinclair miss out

·3 min read

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe will carry Canada's colours alone at the FIFA awards later this month in Zurich.

Captain Christine Sinclair and coach Bev Priestman were nominated for The Best FIFA Women’s Player and Coach, respectively, but were both left off the final list of three despite Canada's Olympic triumph in Tokyo.

Spain's Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas (both Barcelona) and Australia's Sam Kerr (Chelsea) are the final three nominees for The Best FIFA Women’s Player.

The three nominees for The Best FIFA Men’s Player are Poland's Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Argentina's Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain) and Egypt's Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).

Labbe, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, is up for The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper along with Germany's Ann-Katrin Berger (Chelsea) and Chile's Christiane Endler (Paris Saint-Germain/Olympique Lyonnais).

The winners will be announced Jan. 17 in Zurich.

"These awards are great but they're definitely heavy Euro-focused and Euro-based," Labbe told The Canadian Press. "For sure, there are so many more competitions in Europe in terms of club, Champions League, Euro (championships) on those years. So these awards are definitely weighed more towards that and I think you see that in terms of when you see nominees and you see finalists of not only this award but so many of the awards."

In Europe, performance at the club level can seem to overshadow accomplishments on the international stage, she added.

Priestman's feat in guiding the Canadian women to Olympic gold in her first year at the helm "was nothing short of incredible," Labbe said.

"If you're not going to get recognized for leading a team to the top of the podium on the world's biggest stage, I think that just goes to show where the attention lies."

The awards are voted on by an international jury made up of the current coaches of all women’s/men’s national teams, the current captains of all women’s/men’s national teams, one specialist journalist from each territory represented by a national team and fans registered on FIFA.com.

Sinclair, the world's all-time leading goal-scorer, was one of 13 original nominees for the award. But she faced stiff opposition.

Putellas and Hermoso were 1-2 in balloting for the 2020/21 UEFA Women's Player of the Year award, with Kerr tied for seventh.

Putellas scored a penalty to make it 2-0 and set up the third goal in the final in Barcelona's 4-0 win over Kerr's Chelsea in the UEFA Women's Champions League final.

"It seems to be a trend leaving her (Sinclair) out of these things," Labbe lamented. "She was a part of three straight Olympic medals. And not only a part but a massive part of all three of them. You can remember moments from each of the Olympics that she singlehandedly helped carry this team. It was the same in this one.

"For her, at this point in her career to … finally get that team award, I know that's what means the most to her. But I wish that that was more recognized because she's an incredible player and an incredible person and deserves all the accolades in the world."

Putellas was a decisive winner in voting for the Ballon d'Or Feminin, awarded by France Football in November. Hermoso was second while Kerr tied for third. Sinclair finished sixth with fellow Canadians Ashley Lawrence and Jessie Fleming eighth and ninth, respectively.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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