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Women’s World XI players spoke to FIFPro on International Women's Day about some of the challenges of being a woman footballer.

More than 4,100 female first-division footballers in 45 countries voted for their World XI based on 2017 performances. It is the third straight year FIFPro has organized this poll; footballers selected one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers.

FIFPro announced the all-star team on the day set aside to promote women's rights and the fight for equal treatment.

Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride & U.S.)
“International Women’s Day is such an important day to celebrate the progress we've made while continuing to raise awareness about the progress that is still to come. We've come so far in terms of having more women in sports, in football around the world, but that's still not enough. I'm always going to fight to support women in their careers and the path they've chosen.

"For me, my inspiration draws from people on my own team, like the U.S. Women’s National Team. For example, players like Abby Wambach, people who fight every day. I feel like we as a women's national team have come so far with fighting for equality and attaining that little by little. Who's really going to reap the benefits of it? It's the next generation, not us. We know deep down that in 10 or 20 years it's going to be so much better. There is going to be much more equality.

"I feel like you have to put in the work in as much or more as the generation before you to help the generation after you. Having the World XI announced on International Women’s Day just speaks volumes to how committed FIFPro is to the women's game to celebrate female players at the top of the world. I think it's special.”

Marta (Orlando Pride & Brazil)
“When I was growing up in small town of 12,000 people in the north of Brazil I had to face up to prejudice and discrimination because I was the only girl in a team of boys I had to work harder to prove myself. I always hit this point very hard: girls should have the choice to play football. We are capable of playing to a high standard.

"Unfortunately, in Brazil there is still a cultural problem where men’s football dominates. I have been in the women’s national team for 17 years and there is a better structure. We have opened doors for women in football. We have had a women as coach and women in the medical department. But it is a battle that has to be fought day by day. We have to stay united to fight this battle together.’’

Lieke Martens (Barcelona & Netherlands)
“I remember when I used to play with boys and people watching said ‘that girl is no good at football’.  Now it’s great to hear I can inspire both young girls and young boys. When I was little I only had male players to look up to. Little by little we are advancing. But it is very unfortunate that some players of the Dutch national team still have to go to work. It is important, that a player can fully concentrate herself on the game and does not have to worry about whether she can still pay her rent.”

Lucy Bronze (Lyon & England)
“We are very fortunate that the English Football Association (FA) supports the English national team and invests in us. It’s the same in the U.S. and for some associations in Europe. In other countries, they have to keep pushing their associations like they did in Ireland and Denmark last year. As a woman player, you might not be able to devote all your time to football but it’s important that all the girls and women in the world know they have a lot of power and they can improve by pushing themselves. That’s when their FA will understand their national team can really do something and they are worth investing in. We have shown that by hitting two semifinals in a row.”

Irene Paredes (PSG & Spain)
“I come from a small town in Spain’s Basque region and there was only a women’s team for adults. That meant I only played in the street and school yard until I was 14. I wasn’t allowed to play in the boys’ team. I did athletics (track and field) instead. Until a few years ago women’s football in Spain wasn’t taken very seriously. It’s evolving now but much slower than we would like especially in countries where women are not considered as important as men. Until we change this culture we won’t be able to catapult the women’s game forward.”

Nilla Fischer (Wolfsburg & Sweden)
“We should not need International Women’s Day, actually. This day is for celebrating women, but I am hoping that in the future it won’t be necessary any more.

"We really have to fight for it (gender equality), you have noticed that in the last year (with female players negotiating better deals with their associations). There is still some work to do and unfortunately we have to be patient.

"Of course it is frustrating. We have to explain and defend ourselves or almost apologize for doing sports and that sometimes sucks, sorry for my language. I am clever enough to see the big picture, which is something we have to work for to get where we want. For me it is totally worth the work and the frustration, to try get people to understand that women’s soccer is a big sport."

(Photo above: Nilla Fischer poses with a Sweden shirt she used in a training session last year to inspire girls and women. Photo below: Lucy Bronze in action for England.)

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