Mary Earps: 'When we speak out on injustices we can change the world'
Mary Earps and Sarina Wiegman both spoke passionately during their acceptance speeches at The Best FIFA Awards 2023 in London
Earps was named The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper at the 2022 and now 2023 awards following Monday night’s ceremony.
It continues a remarkable three years for the 30-year-old, who has gone from potentially walking away from the game to becoming a European champion, World Cup finalist and multiple award winner.
At the start of 2021, Earps was entering the final months of her contract at Manchester United and with no new offer on the table, was seriously considering leaving the sport to focus on her interests away from football.
But a new contract offer from United saw her carry on and then the arrival of Sarina Wiegman as England head coach in September 2021 changed Earps’ life forever.
The goalkeeper had not been capped by her country since 2019 but Wiegman installed Earps as her number one and the Nottingham native has established herself as one of – if not the – best goalkeeper in the world.
The 30-year-old is one of the most charismatic people in the women’s game and has used her ever-growing success to try to help people, having struggled at times in her life.
“Wow, thank you very, very, very, very, very much,” Earps said, when collecting her The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award, shortly after she was named in the Team of the Year alongside six of her Lionesses team-mates.
“To be honest, last year I won the award but I didn’t get in the team of the year so I thought when I’d made team of the year this was kind of me done for the night.
“I want to say thank you so much to my team-mates who are just unbelievable. I feel incredibly privileged to get to share a pitch with you and learn from you and make so many incredible memories with you, so thank you because without you, I would not be on this stage so thank you so much.
“I’m also going to give a little shout out to [goalkeeping coaches] Darren Ward and Ian Wilcock because they say don’t like the little shout outs, but they do. Thank you to all my coaches at England and [Manchester] United.
“I’m just blown away. I talk about it a lot: it has not been the easiest journey to get here – some would say I definitely took the scenic route – and I have had to wait a long time for this kind of success.
“But looking back now, it all makes total sense, everything I went through. We are all humans and we all have struggles, right? But it just made me feel so much more prepared for the challenges I face today, and to able to enjoy these moments so much more and to realise how pretty unbelievable they are and to never take a single day for granted.
“If you’re struggling and you are going through hell, keep going. It’s never too late to be exactly who you are. I think 2023 showed us that when we come together and we speak out on injustices, we can change the world, so let’s continue to do that.”
Like Earps, Wiegman also retained the award she won last year as she was named The Best FIFA Women’s Coach for the fourth time.
The England head coach followed up the EURO success in the summer of 2022 by winning the first ever Women’s Finalissima, retaining the Arnold Clark Cup and beating world number one side USA, before guiding the Lionesses to their first ever Women’ World Cup final.
And Wiegman used her acceptance speech to thank not only the England players and staff but also her fellow finalists Emma Hayes and Jonatan Giraldez, plus all the grassroots coaches and teachers working tirelessly across football.
Wiegman said: "Some of you are thinking 'there she is again'. I am so sorry for that but at the same time I am very honoured, and I feel very privileged and humbled that I am here again.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved with our performances with England. A big thank you to the FA for all your support, thank you to all the staff for the great achievements we have made, and most of all thank you to the players, who off the back of the EUROs have performed so well in the Arnold Clark Cup, the Finalissima and then the World Cup.
“Lots of things were thrown in front of us and we did really well so I am so proud of everyone who has been involved.
The boss is in the building! 📚 pic.twitter.com/DUgtyEbKyJ— Lionesses (@Lionesses) January 15, 2024
“I would also like to thank my management, who help take a lot of work out of my hands so I can focus on the football part and also my family. Unfortunately, they are not here but they are my biggest fans and support me in every way they can.
"Emma and Jonatan: Congratulations on your big achievements. You both do great jobs in the women’s game so congratulations with all of that and thank you for the great collaboration we have with the England players that play for you [at Chelsea and Barcelona].
"Also, we are visible but there are so many coaches and teachers who are not visible like we are and they give the opportunities to young girls and boys and create an environment for them to play football and give them inspiration and motivation to be the best they can be, whatever level it may be.
“So I would like to thank those people. Keep creating these situations [for players] because we at senior level reap the benefits of that.
“There are a lot more good times to come, thank you so much and enjoy your evening.”
The Best FIFA Awards winners in full