Yes, you can have it all. Dream car. Dream house. Dream spouse. For some, wishing upon a star is enough. For others, hard work and dedication don’t bluff. In the case of FC Barcelona Femeni player Aitana Bonmatí, a golden ball was the reward for her record-breaking and ridiculous 2022/2023 season as a footballer.
FIFA World Cup Champion. FIFA World Cup Golden Ball. UEFA Women’s Champions League Winner. UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. UEFA Women’s Champions League Player of the Season. Liga F League Champion with FC Barcelona. Spanish Super Cup Champion with FC Barcelona. Ballon D’or. The names of these awards to even the most casual football fans will spark interest and intrigue. It may seem as if somebody is reading off of a list, but the list becomes personal when all of the said awards above belong to one player. One season. One woman. In the entire recorded history of association football for club and country, not one individual has had such a decorated season before.
Cue Aitana Bonmatí. The Catalan curator and creative midfielder grew her roots in La Masia, FC Barcelona’s youth academy. Born and raised blue and red, Aitana stands at 161 cm, or 5 feet 4 inches. Tiny but mighty. Referred to as a “magician” who “puts opponents on ice”, Aitana models her style of play after her idols Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. An engine of stamina and enigma of skills. And the statistics don’t lie. Having played 23 Liga F matches during the 2022/2023 season with Barcelona Femeni, Aitana secured 9 goals and 10 assists over a duration of 1,678 minutes. In the Champions League, where competition ranges from not just inside Spain but all over Europe’s best, Aitana’s 5 goals and 7 assists in 11 games were crucial to FC Barcelona’s domination and retention of European glory. Not to forget the World Cup. Aitana went viral several times on social media for embarrassing the opposition through ingenious and innovative technique. Long gone are the days of athleticism and physicality being used to win football matches. Incomparable and irreplaceable. Aitana is on top of the world. And she plays because she loves football.
The Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France was a full house on October 30th. Each year, the Ballon D’or Ceremony is hosted by the French Football Federation, in which the most prestigious award of a golden life-sized football is presented to the best female player and male player of the previous footballing season, along with other awards; Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper and Kopa Trophy for best young talent. Many are mentioned, even fewer are nominated. Voting for the Ballon D’or is not like an influencer “fan based” or “popularity contest,” rather results are redeemed in the form of a panel of 100 certified journalists. Safe to say the Ballon D’or can be compared the sporting equivalent of the Oscars. FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta arrived in style to the ceremony with coaches, management, and players dressed to impress. Among the players on the red carpet included fellow Barcelona Femeni sensations and Aitana’s teammates Fridolina Rolfö, Patri Guijarro, Salma Paralluelo, and María (Mapi) Leon. These ladies were nominated for the individual award as well, but FC Barcelona won Women’s Club of the Year, so none of them left empty handed.
The ceremony started off with speeches in English, Spanish and French, presentations, musical performances, tributes to players past, old fashioned pomp and circumstance. The women’s Ballon D’or was not the last award of the night although certainly not the least either. Tennis player Novak Djokovic actually presented the award in a rare and almost random tennis/football crossover. Aitana looked hopeful and humble. Composed and cool are her mannerisms on the pitch, off the pitch nothing changes. When her time came, Aitana walked up onto the podium like a stroll in the park while receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. Dreams came true.
Congratulations poured out from all over as the night fell in Paris. Even Nike (Aitana’s sponsor) described Aitana’s almost flawless season with a post “Raise the bar. Football will follow.” Aitana reached over 1 million Instagram followers following her success, taking the trophy back to Switzerland where the Spanish national team were set to play the next day. A year of accomplishments and accolades that has never been attained before. Unless, of course, you’re Aitana Bonmatí.