FIFPRO revamped the Merit Award. We now honour players in three different categories: Player Impact, Player Voice and Player Activism. (Click here for more information)
The following players have been nominated for these prizes by their player unions.
Patrick Bantamoi is a former refugee. He fled from war-torn Sierra Leone and left for Finland when he was 17 years old, looking for a better future. He never forgot about his roots ever since. He is supporting the poor and underprivileged in his native country by sending them huge amounts of football equipment including jerseys, shoes, gloves and balls. Bantamoi hopes that this can help them realise their football dreams.
The women’s national team of Cyprus has been fighting for gender equality in football. Before a 2019 international match against Finland, they demanded the same working conditions as the players of the men’s national team, including training facilities, daily allowances and equipment. They used their social media channels to protest and launched a national debate, which resulted in talks between player union PASP and the Cypriot Parliament about creating legislation regarding gender equality in sports.
(UN)FULFILLED WISHES is a project by seven Czech players: Jakub Fulnek, Adam Jánoš, Ladislav Krejčí sr., David Pavelka, Jan Stejskal, Radek Voltr and Dominik Zdržálek. They fulfilled the wishes of 306 children from orphanages who, among other things, asked for toys, sports equipment, electronics, a talent show or visits to theme parks. The players also provided financial support that enabled around 100 children to visit a zoo or theme park and allowed the orphanage to buy technical equipment for 120 children.
South Korean player Keun-Ho Lee showed his social conscience in many ways. He offered financial support to the province of Gangwon to recover from the consequences of forest fires and donated a substantial amount to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Lee hosted charity matches and football clinics to help kids with scholarships and equipment. He is also supporting a former football player who suffered a heart attack during a match in 2011.
Chilean player Nicolás Maturana is a real interventionist. He bought a new home for an elderly couple who were in financial trouble and donated money to enable another professional football player to pay the rent and buy basic needs. On top of that, he provided and distributed groceries and food baskets to 100 people living in vulnerable neighbourhoods, and paid and handed out Christmas dinners to another 250 persons living under difficult circumstances, including homeless people.
Javiera Moreno is working to eradicate sexual abuse, harassment, discrimination and mistreatment from women’s football. The player from Chile has led the development and implementation of the “Protocol Against Harassment, Sexual Abuse, Mistreatment and other forms of Discrimination in Chilean women's football” a specific protection framework for women in football, which can be replicated for other male-dominated sports. She also collaborated in the elaboration of Chile´s National Sports Protocol for Harassment and Abuse in Sports with the Chilean government and inspired other Latin American player unions to copy this protocol, which means a huge improvement for the protection of players in various countries. Moreno also coordinated protection and support for victims in cases of sexual and workplace harassment and abuse during 2019 and 2020.
Aidana Otorbaeva literally put her life on the line to help other people. The female player from Kyrgyzstan started the Soobsha (Together) Movement to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though she is not a medical worker, she volunteered via social media to help medical staff with anything they needed to make their job easier. Her example was followed by many others, which resulted in a group of 500 volunteers. Aidana and her volunteers worked long hours in the frontline, risking their own health. A medical expert praised them, stating they saved thousands of lives.
With an unprecedented campaign, Marcus Rashford ensured that children throughout the United Kingdom would continue to receive free school meals. The English forward managed to convince (or actually force) his country’s government to fund more than USD 550 million towards supporting the cost of food and household bills of struggling families from low socio-economic backgrounds. Rashford also deserves huge praise for his efforts in highlighting equality and anti-discrimination, as well as for his contribution to the Players Together initiative, which raised millions for the National Health Service.