Impetus 2021 Awards

It’s been another great year for women’s football and seven Impetus writers, Ben Gilby, Catherine Paquette, Darrell Allen, Jean-Pierre Thiesset, Kate Tigchelaar, Kieran Yap, and Kris Goman highlight their player, coach, moment, and unsung hero of the year. In true Impetus style, there are representatives from the top flight and grassroots levels of the women’s game (30/12/21).

Ben Gilby – Impetus Editor

TEAM: Barcelona. Ahead of the Champions League Final, there were those who felt that they were a great team, but would be found out against Chelsea as they were not used to coming up against such a quality side given the way they demolished their domestic rivals en route to another Primera División title. After all, didn’t Olympique Lyonnais defeat them 4-1 in their previous Champions League Final? The Catalans produced the greatest performance I have ever seen from a women’s club side as they totally blew Chelsea away in that Final. If anything since then, they have just got better. Total domination of their Champions League group this winter means it is very hard to see anyone taking their titles away any time soon.

Above: Fran Kirby – a player at the peak of her powers. Photo: Chloe Knott – Danehouse/GettyImages.

PLAYER: Fran Kirby. An absolute joy to watch her in the form of her life. Kirby has had battles off the pitch for years with injuries and her mental health. She spoke early in 2021 about the fact that there were times when she didn’t think she’d return to play in 2020/21. But she did, and how she did. Leaving her incredible partnership with Sam Kerr aside, Kirby is absolutely loving her football again and she is red hot in the FAWSL. Completely unplayable and a real role model for the next generation.

COACH: Leading her team to all four domestic trophies available to them in 2020/21 as well as a Champions League Final, Emma Hayes has had an incredible year. Whilst her side’s occasional defensive lapses and Champions League group stage exit might make some question the choice, she is incredibly good at what she does. Her players have huge respect for her and she is a real force of nature at Kingsmeadow.

MOMENT: Sam Kerr scoring at the death to save the Olympic Games Quarter-Final for Australia against Great Britain. It was an incredible game with the Matildas trademark ‘Never Say Die’ spirit coming to the fore. I don’t think I’ve ever shouted as loud or leapt around the living room so much as the result of one goal for a long time. Then having to explain to the neighbours why I was cheering so loudly for a goal that eventually led to Britain’s exit from the competition. It was Sam, it was The Matildas and I loved it.

UNSUNG HERO: In a Chelsea team full of superstars, there is one who maybe doesn’t get the consistent media attention that the likes of Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, and Magda Eriksson do. Erin Cuthbert is a sensational player. The type that I think every team would love to have. She is a real Scottish terrier in midfield, chasing (and winning) lost causes all day long. Erin is the player who will come off a pitch that is in perfect condition caked in mud such is her desire. A legend.

Above: Sam Kerr after scoring THAT goal against Team GB in the Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

Catherine Paquette – Impetus North America Writer

TEAM: It’s Canada from a national team perspective and Barcelona from club football for me.

Above: Canadian celebrations at the Olympic Games. Photo: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters.

PLAYER: Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas.

COACH: Chelsea’s Emma Hayes for everything she’s achieved with her team this year.

MOMENT: Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, Canada’s penalty-saving hero in the Olympic Final.

UNSUNG HERO: Formiga (for another great Olympics), Carli Lloyd (for being Carli Lloyd), and Christine Sinclair (for winning a major international honour).

Above: Alexia Putellas – an incredible year. Photo: FC Barcelona

Darrell Allen – Impetus Grassroots Writer

TEAM: King’s Lynn Town. Nominated for their brilliant start to the season, ending 2021 sitting third in the tier five Eastern Region Women’s Premier Division. It’s certainly surprised those outside the club, although inside they knew this was always possible. 

Above: Impetus sponsored Ashley Cheatley is Darrell Allen’s choice for Player of the Year. Artwork: Ashford Town (Middx).

PLAYER: Ashley Cheatley, for all her goals for Ashford Town (Middx). She’s in the headlines every weekend. Ashley clearly loves her football and is also great at interacting on social media with supporters. A player Impetus is proud to sponsor.

COACH: Sophie Gillett (Caister). Formed the new Caister team and has them flying in the tier eight Norfolk Women and Girls League Division Two as well as reaching the Norfolk Women’s Cup Quarter Finals. 

MOMENT: Harlow Town coming from 3-0 down to win 4-3 at Norwich City in the FAWNL Division One South East in October.

UNSUNG HERO: Harriet Meers for her fantastic performances whilst at Wroxham. In her time at the club this season, they didn’t lose in the tier five Eastern Region Women’s Premier League and more personally for the help she has given me this year as the only person who understood when I was feeling unwell with mental health and helped me in a way that I will always be grateful. I believe Harriet’s kindness means I’m still here today and she deserves huge credit for that. 

Darrell Allen’s review of Norfolk Women’s Football in 2021 will be published on the site tomorrow.

Above: Impetus sponsored Harriet Meers, Darrell Allen’s Unsung Hero of the Year, in action for Wroxham against Luton Town. Photo: Hardy Scott Photos.

Jean-Pierre Thiesset – Impetus French Editor

TEAM: For the first six months, Paris Saint-Germain who won their first D1 Arkema title in 2020/2021 and eliminated Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-final of UEFA Women Champion’s For the last six months, Olympique Lyonnais with 11 wins on 11 games in D1 Arkema from the start of the 2021/2022 season and sit top of the table. Both teams qualified first in their group of UEFA Women Champion’s League. An honourable mention goes to Fleury who have had a good year and currently are in a battle for third place in D1 Arkema.

Above: Paris St. Germain lift the 2020/21 D1 Arkema trophy. Photo: Anthony Bibard via Imago

PLAYER: Selma Bacha. She has put in outstanding performances in all games she played with Olympique Lyonnais in 2021/2022 season whether it be at left-back, left midfield or as striker. She scored three goals and made six decisive passes (first rank in D1 Arkema so far); she was elected D1 Arkema player of the month in October, November, and December – the first time anyone has won the award three times in a row since the awards began in September 2020. For her first game with the France team as a left-back defender, she played almost 100 balls, 71 passes with 93% successful and made decisive passes. For her second game with the France team, she played only 25 minutes and scored a wonderful goal from 20 meters.

COACH: Sonia Bompastor – Sonia has given a more enjoyable style of play to Olympique Lyonnais since she took the team as a coach. We retrieved the previous Lyon style of play with more movement and quick passes. All of this with six major players injured: Ada Hegerberg, Wendie Renard, and Griedge MBock at the beginning of the season, they have only just returned. Now Damaris Egurrola, Daniëlle Van De Donk at the end of the year, and Amel Majri who is likely to be out for most of the season.

MOMENT: Olympique Lyonnais failing to win the 2020/21 D1 title with it going to Paris Saint-Germain for the first time. This win for PSG prevented Lyon from adding to 14 successive wins and ending their fellow French side from making it six successive UEFA Women’s Champions League victories. Additionally, COVID 19 stopped Lyon from winning their 12th French Cup as the competition was cancelled.

UNSUNG HERO: This was the most difficult award to decide for me. All of these were contenders – Katriina Talaslahti (for her clean sheets), Mary Fowler (for her goals who saved her team several times), Rachel Corboz (for her team back on the right track), and Delphine Cascarino. All four were important for their team could have been nominated. In the end, I go for Janice Cayman due to her attitude on and off the field but it was a very close call.

Above: Sonia Bompastor, Jean-Pierre Thiesset’s choice as Coach of the Year. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP.

Kate Tigchelaar – Impetus Canadian Football Writer

TEAM: Barcelona. What is there to say about Barça other than the fact that they are arguably the best women’s team in the world right now. They had a staggering goal difference of 152 in their league for the 2021 season and also won the treble, winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga Femenina, and Copa de la Reina. They also don’t show any signs of slowing down in 2022 and could be in for another team of the year next year. 

Above: Barcelona lifting the Champions League trophy after their incredible win over Chelsea. Photo: David Lidstrom/Getty Images

PLAYER: Alexia Putellas. Scored 26 goals across all competitions and was the highest-scoring midfielder in Europe. She also won the Women’s Player of the Year award along with the Ballon d’Or 

COACH: Bev Priestman took over as the manager of the Canadian women’s national team in October of 2020 and in less than a year she had them winning gold at the Olympics. With barely any preparation, or playing in tournaments and missing key players from her squad, she managed to make it work and win that gold medal. Changing the colour of the medal was her goal and she accomplished it, having gotten Canada past the US as well for the first time in twenty years.

MOMENT: Canada winning gold at the Olympics. They have won medals in back-to-back-to-back Olympics in women’s football now and this gold may just be the driving force to get us a professional league here. Canada is one of the only top ten teams in the world that doesn’t have one. Canada also had to get through the US in the semi-finals and then an incredibly tough Sweden side in the final. Lots of people didn’t have Canada picked as going all the way which makes it that much sweeter. 

UNSUNG HERO: Ashley Lawrence, Paris St.Germain and Canada. Defenders so rarely get the praise they deserve which already puts Lawrence in a good position for this award. She helped lead PSG to the title in the D1 Arkema in 2021 after years of losing to Lyon and was also instrumental in helping Canada grab gold at the Tokyo Olympics. She creates a lot of attacks going forward but is equally good and getting back and making terrific defensive tackles. Everything you want in an outside back.

Photo: Canada head coach Bev Priestman, Kate Tigchelaar’s choice as Coach of the Year. Photo: Boris Streubel – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Kieran Yap – Impetus Australian Football Writer

TEAM: Chelsea FC. It was between the London club and Canada‘s gold medalists for me. Although they were well beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final, they became a must-watch team during their treble-winning season. Even their defensive issues are part of the appeal as a neutral. Apart from a very few exceptions, Chelsea games meant goals and highlights.

Above: Teagan Micah – Kieran Yap’s choice for Player of the Year. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

PLAYER: Teagan Micah. Goalkeeper of the year in the Dolan Awards, Melbourne City’s player of the year. A heroic Olympic campaign and becoming a league champion in Sweden. Micah had a career-making 2021 and delivered at club and national team level.

COACH: Can I be sappy and say every one of last season’s W-League coaches for building teams and getting through a hectic, uncertain season?  If I have to choose, it’s Jeff Hopkins of Melbourne Victory. Victoria had no NPL season to judge recruits by, but he gave Kyra Cooney-Cross responsibility and freedom, moved Polly Doran to right-back and trusted Melina Ayres to replace Natasha Dowie. The Grand Final win was a suitable reward for good planning and risk-taking.

MOMENT: Looking back on 2021, I actually think Mary Fowler’s goal against Denmark is my favourite of the year. Not just for the quality of the strike but there has always been some mystery around what she could really do. That goal not only kick-started her international career but in hindsight the Tony Gustavsson era of the Matildas. She’s built on that moment to become a key player as the year comes to a close. 

UNSUNG HERO: Erin Cuthbert. She has all the talent in the world but is also the ultimate team player. Cuthbert is a barometer for Chelsea. She can play as an attacking midfielder, a winger or as a (still attacking) right back when needed.

Above: Erin Cuthbert, the only player to receive more than one vote for Unsung Hero of the Year. Photo: @erincuthbert_

Kris Goman – Impetus Australian Football Writer

TEAM: Has to be Barcelona. Nobody comes close right now. The way they’ve literally thrashed every team they’ve met. They are a class above.

PLAYER: Gotta say that I agree with the FIFA Ballon D’or results and put Alexia Putellas in the number one spot. Great leader, great player, great results.

Above: Chelsea’s Emma Hayes, the choice of three of our writers, including Kris Goman for Coach of the Year. Photo: Chelsea FC via Getty Images.

COACH: Emma Hayes. Despite very recent results, what she’s done with Chelsea has been phenomenal. Winning all the domestic trophies and getting to the Champions League final says it all.

MOMENT: Canada winning the Olympics. Even though I thought Sweden really deserved the gold and the look on their faces when they were presented the silver was the saddest thing in football this year, the unmitigated joy from the Canadians was something else. And to see Christine Sinclair win a major tournament after all these years was special. Very close runner-up was Sam Kerr absolutely flooring that pitch invader in the Champions League game between Chelsea and Juventus. I didn’t think my respect for her could go any higher but it did

UNSUNG HERO: Closer to home, I’m going with Cortnee Vine, despite her ACL injury that took her out for most of the season. She was absolutely killing it before her injury and her stats spoke for themselves. She’s back this season like she’s never been away, causing havoc, scoring goals, and providing assists. I am really hoping she gets a call up to the Matildas soon and gets the recognition she deserves.

Above: Cortnee Vine (far right) – an outstanding comeback from injury and Kris Goman’s choice as Unsung Hero of the Year. Photo: Sydney FC.

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