- Sarah Bouhaddi is a finalist for The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper
- The Lyon stalwart had lobbied for the creation of the prize
- "Sometimes female keepers get too much criticism," she tells FIFA.com
When The Best FIFA Football Awards™ were announced in 2017 and 2018, Sarah Bouhaddi made her feelings very clear to us on Twitter. "Shame there's no prize for the best women's keeper," wrote the Lyon player. A year later, she sent us a different message, this time celebrating the launch of The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper.
"It wasn't particularly important for me as much as it was for all women keepers in general," Bouhaddi told FIFA.com now, having been named one of three finalists for this year's award. "We do the same job as the men and I thought it was a shame not to highlight us in the same way. Especially as our position has been going through a fantastic evolution and that now there are great goalkeepers in women's football.
"Today, it's more obvious to see the impact keepers can have on the performances of a team. That's evolved quite a lot in the last ten years and more is expected of us these days. Personally, I try to participate as much as possible in my team's play and to give my team-mates the best possible support."
Bouhaddi's quality on the ball was praised recently by Camille Abily in an interview with FIFA.com. Her former team-mate, now assistant coach at Lyon, also mentioned how "she likes to play the ball at times when she could be a little more direct", before stressing that it's "just a minor fault and one she's all but eliminated from her game".
"I remain a ball player at heart," said Bouhaddi. "But I do try to limit that as much as possible on the pitch because there are risks you can't take if you want to avoid causing yourself problems.
"I can still improve my ability on the ball, even if I don't think people realise how much I get called upon. I doubt there are many women's goalkeepers who touch the ball more than 50 times per match. That's one of my qualities and at the same time it's the thing I'm most often criticised for."
For Bouhaddi, there is still much progress to be made – both in terms of how her position is perceived and also the specialised training and infrastructure dedicated to women's goalkeepers: "National teams and big clubs make sure that keepers get their own specific training. That's essential if you want good results."
Ideally, the Lyon veteran would like to see a similar approach spread across the women's game. "Sometimes female keepers get too much criticism, and it's also good to highlight them in a positive way," she said. "Often, people only remember the negatives, but it's a very demanding position. What we do is difficult and there should be more effort to underline the positive evolution happening in women's football."
Last year, Bouhaddi missed out on a place among the finalists for The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper. "That's normal," she said. "It was a World Cup year and the three finalists all left an impression. People often remember the key moment and less so the whole season, but that's true too of the men."
Either way, her own consistency over the past decade at the highest level demands serious respect, with ten consecutive French titles and seven UEFA Women's Champions League victories the standout feats.
More trophies for Lyon?
As for who should win The Best FIFA Women's Player, Bouhaddi has a clear preference: "I appreciate longevity, and when you look at the career of Wendie Renard… She's won everything with her club, she's exemplary for the national team and her leadership shines through wherever she goes."
Whatever happens, Renard's Lyon colleague hopes to see their side earn recognition at The Best FIFA Football Awards™, not just to cap another exceptional season but also to reward their work over many years.
"People might think it's easy for Lyon, but the other clubs get stronger every year and we also have to raise our level," she said. "It's not easy; we're not robots. It gets harder and harder to win. Right now, everyone wants to topple Olympique Lyonnais. Teams play at 2,000 per cent against us, which increases our motivation."
Recent results underscore the challenge, with Lyon having lost a league fixture to Paris Saint-Germain on 20 November before eking out a hard-fought 3-2 win against Juventus – a team that has only existed for three years. The pressure of competition is mounting, both in France and on the European stage.
"There'll be matches that we lose," said Bouhaddi. "We're doing everything to delay that from happening. In the meantime, we'll only be able to talk about power changing hands when we start losing titles. That's not yet the case – we're still the top club in Europe."
All winners, including those of the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award, will be crowned on 17 December 2020 in a TV show broadcast live, starting at 19:00 CET.
Join the discussion about who should win this year’s awards by using the hashtag #TheBest.