PARIS (AP) A woman will win the most prestigious individual trophy in soccer for the first time this year.
Awarded every year by France Football magazine since Stanley Matthews won it in 1956, the Ballon d’Or for the best player of the year will be given to both a woman and a man on Dec. 3 in Paris.
Pascal Ferre, the magazine’s editor in chief, told The Associated Press women’s soccer has grown so much in recent years it was a logical step to create the new award.
“Women’s soccer is a booming discipline that deserves the same respect as men’s soccer,” Ferre told the AP. “It’s coming to maturity and growing bigger. More than 760 million TV viewers watched games at the last women’s World Cup in 2015, this did not happen by chance.”
France Football will make an official announcement in Tuesday’s edition of the magazine.
A list of 15 nominees for the prize will be announced on Oct. 8 alongside the 30-man selection. The players will be selected by France Football and a panel of international journalists specialized in women’s soccer will vote on a winner.
“The jury won’t be the same as the jury voting for the men,” Ferre said. “Only experts can vote. I’m confident we will get a jury of about 40 journalists, from countries where women’s soccer is growing.”
The Ballon d’Or merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year award from 2010-15, but the magazine and soccer’s governing body split two years ago. FIFA also awards a trophy to the best women’s player.
Ferre said most of the female players he spoke with about the new Ballon d’Or have been enthusiastic.
“They are thrilled and can’t wait for it,” Ferre said. “They are very proud to see that the world of soccer considers that women should be treated in the same respect as men.”
France Football is also launching a new award for the best young player of the year, the Kopa trophy, named after the late Raymond Kopa. The former Real Madrid attacking midfielder who became the first French player to win the Ballon d’Or back in 1958 died last year at 85. Only former winners will be entitled to choose the winner from a list of 10 under-21 players.
The award ceremony will be broadcast live in more than 120 countries.