World football champion with the United States and Ballon d’Or 2019, Megan Rapinoe was the exceptional guest of Top of the foot this Monday evening, on RMC, on the eve of a friendly match in Le Havre against the team of France. The world star of women’s football gave his view on the game of the Blue and mentioned his many commitments.
Megan Rapinoe, what is your memory of the 2019 World Cup quarter-final, played with the United States against France?
I’m not exactly sure what I said after the meeting. I was probably happy to qualify for the semi-finals. It was an incredible game, probably the greatest atmosphere of my career. When you play against the host country in a big stadium in Paris, the audience is amazing. All the matches against France are very difficult. Winning is always a great performance. I don’t really remember what I said about the tactics, we were a little better defensively than they expected. But sometimes it’s just the face of a game and you have to play hard. We won this game, and most importantly, you know the rest.
Do you understand the tactics of the Blue?
I have some ideas on how to advance the France team but I cannot give them to you, it remains secret. If I tell you, it will give clues to the staff and it will be more difficult for us to impose ourselves. But anyway, it is still very difficult matches against France. Obviously, the tactical and technical level of the players of the France team is exceptional.
Why is France not winning anything?
I think sometimes you have to win a first title. Winning is a quality, like tactics are a skill, technical fluency or mental toughness. A commitment to be imposed in all circumstances. Sometimes you have to know how to sacrifice yourself, play in a different way, sometimes you need different things depending on the game. Unity is the most important thing.
What is your view on the difficulties encountered by the France group?
I don’t know, I’m not part of the team. I don’t know exactly how the players feel. You know, within our selection, dialogue is something vital. When we start a World Cup, or a Euro for the France team, everyone must be on the same tempo, be ready to do everything to win, and do everything for any player on the team in the goal of winning. This is the kind of thing that the France team lacks, which makes it so difficult to win. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with the France team, but what is certain is that there are players who are among the best in the world. And that it’s one of the best teams in the world. And tomorrow (Tuesday) it will be a very big challenge for us to beat them.
What memories do you keep of your time in Lyon?
I still have great memories of my time in France. Of course, it was a big challenge, it allowed me to progress as a player and to become a better person. Jean-Michel Aulas has continued his commitment for many years to his female team, and offers it a framework that allows them to perform well.
I must tell you that I had a great first impression when I joined the team, It was an honor to wear the Olympique Lyonnais jersey. We kept good relations, I really enjoyed this period in Lyon, which made me progress a lot. I still think that the French must take me for crazy, but it is also the case of the Americans. It’s normal.
Your match which takes place at the same time as that of PSG this Tuesday, is it a problem?
Very clearly, there should never be two important games at the same time. We experienced that at the World Cup in 2019. For me there must be two different time slots, everyone must be able to watch both games. This shows that we must continue to work on the popularity of women’s football. But playing in prime-time is already a positive point, and it allows you to be more valued. I don’t know how the match schedule went. Unfortunately, PSG-Bayern is playing at the same time as our game, but people should watch our game because it is the best.
After refusing to attend the White House under Donald Trump, you responded to Joe Biden’s invitation …
It is always a very good chance to be able to go to the White House to meet the President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of any country. I was not in tune on many subjects with the policies of Donald Trump. With Joe Biden’s new policy, America’s most influential people are supporting the causes championed by this administration. Not only in rhetoric but also in actions. I was able to be the spokesperson for certain subjects at the White House.
There must be new commitments from the federations. We have to put in place new laws to be in line with what the players do on a daily basis. It was not just the opportunity to be present at the White House to do some extra work. But it is because we were well received that we were able to discuss, and in particular raise the issue of equal pay. Because the situation of the American women’s selection is very shocking.
I went to give a speech to the White House, I enjoyed it. Many women do not have the opportunity to go to the White House, do not have the chance to speak out in the media and have a voice. Speaking for the people, we can do it.
You talk about a shocking situation regarding salaries, what is it?
I think we have taken a first step. Generally speaking, for women in sport, for an identical investment, identical opportunities, the same resources for the less good teams. One wonders if it is fair to ask for the same salary as Messi who earns astronomical sums. No ! We understand that is not how it works. If I can have the same youth program, the same marketing programs, this time we can really start talking about growing women’s football. We have seen it for 4 or 5 years with investments in women’s football, the level of clubs and players has increased. The 2019 World Cup was a perfect example. It was because we had called for it with a lot of noise! We are in a period where we manage to publicize the cause of women, on TV and in the newspapers. Clubs and federations also see that there is a financial opportunity to invest in women’s football. In the world, we have really succeeded in making people talk about all this, about the feminine cause, and we have had incredible success. I really think that we must continue to invest.
Rapinoe: “Celebrities have a responsibility to make the world a better place”
You are very committed, you want to make a difference. Does this mean that you could have a position of responsibility in Fifa or in the United States?
I do not know yet. I take things as they come. I will always stay involved. I know I have a strong voice, that what I say is widely debated, whether or not people like what I say. I am sure I want to continue using this platform to increase the debate, fight for the big issues. I don’t know what it will look like exactly when I stop playing. I don’t know about politics, it’s a crazy world. I think I can have a lot of influence without necessarily working for an organization. I have to see where I belong, but I have a lot of energy, you will always see me talking about these issues, fighting, as long as people listen to me.
You should be in politics, what do you think?
Thank you ! I’ll think about it, that’s clear.
You fight in particular against discrimination in society and especially in football, to defend LGBT rights …
It’s not just black gamers who have to talk about racism, not just gay gamers who have to talk about homophobia, not just women who have to talk about wage inequality. We are all responsible, we must use our voices to stop the discrimination, to stop the ones we face. It is not really up to the people who are already oppressed to make sure to shut down a system that they are undergoing. This is not how there will be real social change. We know that there must be collaboration from everyone. We saw that in the United States …
Do you really think a celebrity should take responsibility in the public arena?
Yes, I think everyone, celebrities and average people alike, has a responsibility to try to make the world a better place, to make equality the norm.
You are one of the first to get involved globally, in sport, in football. We saw Marcus Rashford in England. Is it important that the stars engage more?
I hope. I think Rashford and the others in England and elsewhere have done incredible things. This is especially true for football players in Europe. It is the most popular sport in Europe, their eyes are on them. They are among the best athletes. When you see the commitment of certain athletes, like Serena Williams or LeBron James here in the United States. It is important that people listen to Rashford, Messi, Griezmann or Ronaldo … They are very listened to! It is important that they understand that they will always be seen as global role models. While people are listening, use this platform to do good. You saw what Rashford did in his country, he had an incredible impact, especially during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean you have to talk about every problem all the time. Find something that you are passionate about, use your power and influence because you can really make a huge impact as a great soccer player.
We have seen Thierry Henry withdraw from social networks because of insults and racism …
They can’t control the system but I really think it’s great that people like Thierry Henry are talking about racism. Other players are talking about it on social networks … There must also be more white players talking about it. Black players do not create racism or a structure, a system that allows racism. It must go beyond black players, white players must also be shocked by racism. It’s all about responsibility. I really think it’s important to use these platforms, they have to. You cannot rely solely on those who are oppressed. We too must do our part.