Jenni Hermoso Named Guardian’s Footballer of the Year

In a year filled with extraordinary moments and adversity, Spanish women’s football star Jenni Hermoso has been named the Guardian’s Footballer of the Year for 2023. The award, conceptualized to recognize the achievements of players who have done extraordinary things and overcome great challenges, is a fitting honor for Hermoso’s remarkable journey.

Hermoso’s 89th-minute strike in Spain’s 1-0 victory over Italy in the Nations League in October was a cathartic moment, capturing the essence of her triumphant yet tumultuous year. The two-time Ballon d’Or winner’s goal came just 21 minutes after she had stepped onto the pitch with a star above the badge on her national team’s shirt for the first time.

The triumph, however, was instantly shadowed by an unwanted kiss from Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish football federation, after Spain’s victorious Women’s World Cup final in Sydney. This sparked a controversy that brought the national women’s team’s often private battle against institutional misogyny to a worldwide audience.

Hermoso’s unwavering stance and refusal to cooperate with Rubiales’ attempts to downplay the incident have made her a symbol of the struggle for fairness, equality, and a safe environment for women footballers, and women in general. Her actions, along with those of her teammates, have challenged the macho culture that permeates Spanish society, of which football is a microcosm.

The 33-year-old forward, who is Spain’s all-time greatest goalscorer with 52 goals and has earned 107 caps, has embraced a role she would probably rather have never had to take on. But it is precisely this bravery, and the impact of her actions on future generations, that makes her a more than worthy winner of the Guardian’s prestigious award.

As the eighth winner and fourth woman to receive the honor, Hermoso joins the esteemed company of Khadija Shaw (2018), Megan Rapinoe (2019), and Virginia Torrecilla (2022). Her story serves as a testament to the power of standing up for one’s principles and the transformative potential of sports in driving societal change.

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