In the moment of her greatest triumph, Spain’s World Cup winner became the focal point of football’s battle against misogyny

The Guardian Footballer of the Year is an award given to a player who has done something remarkable, whether by overcoming adversity, helping others or setting a sporting example by acting with exceptional honesty.

On 27 October 2023, 21 minutes after stepping onto the pitch with a star above the badge on the shirt of her national team for the first time, Jenni Hermoso screamed with cathartic energy. It was the talismanic two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas who had wriggled free in the box and had a shot pushed away by Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani, but it was Hermoso who was there to follow it up, stood unmarked a few feet to the left of the penalty spot, sweeping into the far corner. She raced away, two big low fist pumps accompanied her howl of relief, defiance, and celebration.

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