Russell Westbrook, Doc Rivers and Billie Jean King reacted with revulsion to the assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump, united in the view there would have been a deadlier outcome had the rioters been black people.

On a dark day for the United States, thousands of Trump backers descended on Washington for a protest rally, refusing to accept the result of November's election that saw Joe Biden sweep to power.

Two weeks out from Biden's inauguration, many violent protesters breached security and accessed the Capitol, causing carnage and destruction as they appeared to go largely unchallenged.

There were a number of casualties, with four dead including a woman who was shot, while reports said a number of explosive devices were discovered.

Washington Wizards star Westbrook said: "It's very unfortunate to see. If those roles were reversed, if those were African-Americans, black people, it would be totally different."

He said the chaos was "just crazy, almost like a movie", and team-mate Bradley Beal agreed it was hard to stomach the scenes, given his view that police took a far less lenient approach to protesters during last year's Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"It's very disheartening in a lot of ways - a lack of sense of urgency to respond to what was going on, versus protesters at Black Lives Matter over the summer," Beal said.

"The people who were invading our Capitol, that's unheard of and it's disheartening this is where we're at as a country."

Veteran Philadelphia 76ers coach Rivers called the insurgency "pretty disturbing" but vowed that "democracy will prevail".

"It shows a lot, though," Rivers said. "When you saw the [Black Lives Matter] protests in the summer, you saw the riots or more the police and the national guard and the army. And then you see this and you saw nothing.

"It basically proves the point about a privileged life in a lot of ways. I'll say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to: could you imagine today if those were all black people storming the Capitol and what would have happened?

"So that to me is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see and probably something for us to reckon with again."

Tennis great King, a long-time activist for equality in sport and society, added on Twitter: "If the rioters storming the Capitol building today were Black and Brown people, the police response would be much different."

Footballer Megan Rapinoe became embroiled in a war of words with Trump during USA's triumph at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Looking at footage of how seemingly easily the protesters were able to break into the Capitol, Rapinoe offered her opinion, writing: "This is crazy, how did they even get through the..... ohhhhh it was opened for them."

Trump had addressed the crowds earlier in the day, forcefully standing by his view that he was fraudulently robbed of an election win.

In the hours after the Capitol was cleared, Congress confirmed Biden's victory.

Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback, described the rioters as "terrorists".

He wrote on Twitter: "Never thought Americans would let terrorists into the capital without a fight....sad day. There are certain things my brain could never imagine.... and one of them is black ppl storming a government building and taking things without deadly consequences. But that’s just my brain."

It was not just Sherman's brain thinking along those lines, though. Far from it.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard took the same stance, saying: "You just see the privilege, the privilege in America. "It's sad to see, because if any of us was out there, I think we would've been tear-gassed, Maced, probably gunshots, you know?"

And American track and field legend Michael Johnson said the scenes were only to be expected, given the nature of the Trump presidency.

"The alarms were sounded for four years. Republicans ignored them. Many in the media ignored them and normalized dangerous behavior," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

"Sadly, today it all came to be. Shameful! This president and his supporters. Shame on you! And take responsibility!

"People on Twitter (of course) literally equating BLM protesters fighting for justice and equality to White Supremacist Trump supporters (supposed Patriots) gleefully and violently desecrating America's oldest and greatest institutions of democracy. Sadly, this is typical America."

Liverpool have accounted for four of the 11 nominations for The Best FIFA men's player award.

The Premier League champions have Virgil van Dijk, the 2019 runner-up to Lionel Messi in this category, recognised along with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara, who joined in the last transfer window after winning the treble with Bayern Munich.

Messi and two-time award winner Cristiano Ronaldo are also on the shortlist along with Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Robert Lewandowski is among the favourites to win the award, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos the other nominees.

FIFA confirmed last week its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern's Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. 

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award, which he won in 2019.

There are six goalkeepers up for the accolade, with Bayern's Manuel Neuer likely to be tough to beat amid competition from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jan Oblak, Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid shot stopper Courtois won the award in 2018, a year after Gianluigi Buffon claimed the inaugural edition.

FIFA has confirmed its The Best awards will go ahead as a virtual event on December 17 despite France Football's Ballon d'Or being cancelled in 2020.

With football across the globe impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and France's Ligue 1 season notably curtailed in 2019-20, the call was made earlier in July that no Ballon d'Or would be awarded.

The decision frustrated Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, the apparent favourite to succeed record-breaking six-time winner Lionel Messi.

But Lewandowski could yet be recognised as FIFA maintains its plans to honour the leading men's and women's players and coaches. Messi also won The Best FIFA Men's Player award in 2019.

Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d'Or Feminin holder, likewise took The Best FIFA Women's Player accolade last time out.

Confirming the date of the 2020 ceremony, FIFA said it was important to acknowledge achievement "in this extraordinary year"

"This year, it has been clearer than ever that nothing is more important than health," a statement read.

"The protagonists of the game have taken on greater responsibility, not just as players but also as role models giving hope to communities everywhere and sharing messages of unity in the face of the ongoing public health crisis.

"Following the safe resumption of competitions, thanks to a combination of hard work and solidarity across our sport, football has provided a rare source of comfort and joy to many.

"Thus, it is important that FIFA honour such achievements in this extraordinary year.

"In line with public health precautions and FIFA's guiding principle that health comes first, it has been decided that the awards ceremony will be held as a virtual event only."

Voting will take place between November 25 and December 9 ahead of the awards ceremony eight days later.

United States footballer Megan Rapinoe and basketball star Sue Bird have announced their engagement, with Joe Biden among the first to offer congratulations.

Two-time Women's World Cup winner Rapinoe, who was hugely influential in last year's triumph at the finals in France, met Bird at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

They announced they were a couple in July 2017, and Bird has now posted a picture on Instagram of Rapinoe putting a ring on her left hand.

Speaking to ESPN three years ago, Rapinoe explained how she and four-time Olympic gold medallist Bird found love, saying: "We have a lot in common and just sort of clicked. I joke she is my number one go-to-for-advice person. She's just so level-headed."

Tennis great Billie Jean King sent warm wishes to the couple, with Chelsea Clinton also congratulating Rapinoe and Bird, as did football's US Women's National Team and the WNBA's Seattle Storm, Bird's long-time team.

US presidential candidate Biden wrote on Twitter: "Love will always win. Congratulations, @S10Bird and @mPinoe!"

Earlier this year, Rapinoe offered to be the running mate for Biden, the Democratic Party's candidate.

The 35-year-old has used her platform to speak out on societal issues including racism, homophobia and the gender pay gap.

She drew the ire of incumbent US president Donald Trump having said she had no intention of visiting him if the USA won last year's Women's World Cup.

There will be no Ballon d'Or awarded in 2020 due to a "lack of sufficient fair conditions", France Football has announced.

The French publication, which organises football's most prestigious individual prize, believes the effects of the coronavirus pandemic upon the sport at the elite level means it would be unfair to declare a 2020 winner.

In a list of reasons published to explain the decision, France Football said it "did not want to put an indelible asterisk" on the trophy due to present circumstances, adding "we will always prefer a small sprain (to our history) to a large scar".

It will be the first time since the Ballon d'Or launched in 1956 that its ballot to decide the finest player in the world will not be taken.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi claimed the top prize for a record sixth time in 2019, with United States forward Megan Rapinoe lifting the Ballon d'Or Feminin.

Football across the world shut down in March as COVID-19 spread rapidly.

Although the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga have all since returned behind closed doors, Ligue 1 was one of the competitions to cancel its 2019-20 schedule.

"A singular year cannot - and should not - be treated as an ordinary year. When in doubt, it is better to abstain than to persist," France Football said.

"The fairness that prevails for this honorary title could not be preserved, in particular at the statistical level and also in terms of preparation since all the aspirants to the award could not be housed in the same boat, some having seen their season cut off radically, others not. So how do you compare the incomparable?"

The statement concluded: "The Ballon d'Or story is too precious to take the risk of damaging it with a wobbly exercise. In these turbulent times, taking a break is a luxury and an invaluable necessity. So that football, as a whole, regains momentum and passion and emotion."

United States Soccer has lifted its ban on kneeling during the national anthem having admitted it was wrong to prevent Megan Rapinoe from doing so.

Four years ago, Rapinoe took a knee prior to the women's team's game against Thailand, following the lead of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who did so to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Kaepernick was heavily criticised by president Donald Trump for kneeling and U.S. Soccer's board of directors passed a law in 2017 which made it mandatory for its players to stand for The Star-Spangled Banner prior to games.

However, given there has been a renewed focus on the issues Kaepernick was protesting following the death of George Floyd in police custody last month, USA's women's team had called for the ban to be removed.

U.S. Soccer has now revised its law and apologised to its players for passing the rule in the first place.

"U.S. Soccer affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices," the federation said in a statement.

"The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday afternoon to repeat Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem.

"The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality and the systematic oppression of black people and people of colour in America. 

"It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.

"We have not done enough to listen - especially to our players - to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of black and other minority communities in our country.

"We apologise to our players - especially our black players - staff, fans and all who support eradicating racism.

"Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will."

U.S. Soccer's decision comes after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that league was also wrong to not listen to its players when they peacefully protested.

Raheem Sterling has explained how a toll of media criticism forced him to speak out over the coverage given to black players.

In December 2018, Manchester City and England forward Sterling drew attention to two articles published by the Daily Mail concerning his club team-mates Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo.

The pieces both reported on the then-teenagers buying houses worth £2million, although the headline declared Adarabioyo "splashes out on mansion... despite having never started a Premier League match".

England Under-21 international Foden, who was similarly yet to make his full top-flight debut at that stage, was portrayed comparatively fondly as a "starlet" who "buys new £2m home for his mum".

Sterling highlighted the contrast in an Instagram post where he claimed such media coverage "fuels racism" – a day on from himself receiving abuse while playing for City at Chelsea.

"As an individual I feel I can take a lot, I can receive criticism and handle it well. I kind of thrive off stuff like this, not racism but criticism," he explained in a webchat with USA star Megan Rapinoe on his YouTube channel, putting his post into the context of articles that targeted him as a young player

"I try to turn the negatives into positives. But when I started to get [criticism] about materialistic things that were being referred back to me and labelling me, that’s what upset me.

"I felt like it was a constant attack for no valid reason and there were times I was really, really low.

"I wouldn’t even say stuff to my mum or girlfriend. I'd take it in, keep moving, keep moving."

Wary of how such criticism impacted him, Sterling felt compelled to step in to defend Adarabioyo and others.

"I thought to myself, if I know how much it is affecting me, what would happen to a 17-year-old kid who's probably not as mentally strong as I was, where would their career end up or where would it lead to?" he said.

"I felt I had to say something because I was in a changing room with two young lads - same team, both trying their best and working their socks off, both want to be professional players at Manchester City, both wanting to do the right things for their families.

"The wording of two pretty similar stories – Phil looks like a good kid and Tosin looks like a money-oriented person. Not just us players, but the media too have a responsibility. It wasn't something I was looking for the credit for – it's just something I feel I truly believe is wrong."

Rapinoe praised Sterling for his "positive impact" and called on white players to take a similar stand in the fight against racism.

"Hopefully other players, especially white players, will see that even just saying it, lending support, retweeting something you said or saying something of their own, they can just help so much," said the reigning FIFA Best Women's Player.

"I think people feel overwhelmed, like, 'I don’t know what to do to help, I’ve got to start a huge charity', but you really don’t, you can just say something in support.

"You have this huge platform and the littlest thing can make such a difference. For kids who want to be Raheem Sterling when they grow up it’s not always the easiest road. It’s super brave you said that and you're standing up for that. I hope other players do as well."

Rapinoe has spoken out on a varied of social issues and, in 2016, leant her support to NFL player Colin Kaepernick and his protest against police brutality towards black people in the United States.

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling believes clubs should be given at least four weeks to train before returning to competitive Premier League action following the coronavirus hiatus.

Much like most sport across the world, the Premier League has been on hold for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Kingdom has been hit particularly badly by the virus, which has been contracted by over 240,000 people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with over 34,000 confirmed deaths.

With the German Bundesliga resuming on Saturday and Spain's LaLiga ramping up its own plans for a return, the Premier League's next steps are being eagerly debated, with 'Project Restart' reportedly identifying June 13 as potential target.

But, following Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce's suggestion to push the restart back until the end of next month, Sterling is also erring on the side of caution, stressing the need for at least a month of full training before competitive action returns.

Speaking in an interview with United States star Megan Rapinoe on his official YouTube channel, Sterling said: "You can't come back in [playing matches] with one-and-a-half weeks, two weeks [of training].

"You need a full four or five weeks, especially if you're going back into competition, you're not playing friendlies, when you're literally paid to win and it's going to count for something.

"You do need that preparation, definitely, you can't just go straight back into it."

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

Megan Rapinoe has thrown her hat into the ring to be the running mate for Joe Biden, who is expected to be the Democratic Party's candidate for the United States presidency.

Rapinoe won the Ballon d'Or Femenin and Best FIFA Women's Player award for her on-pitch performances in 2019 and is seemingly eyeing yet another title away from the field.

The 34-year-old USWNT and OL Reign captain has used her platform to speak out on societal issues including racism, homophobia and the gender pay gap.

She drew the ire of incumbent US president Donald Trump having said she had no intention of visiting him if the USA won last year's Women's World Cup, which they did.

Biden, who was vice-president during Barack Obama's time in the Oval Office, has committed to selecting a female running mate.

During an Instagram Live session with Biden and his wife Jill, Rapinoe made her services available.

"I don't want to put you on the spot – I think I could still play soccer and do this," Rapinoe told Biden.

"But if you need a vice-president, I'm just saying I'm available for an interview. We can talk logistics and the details. Put it on your list. No pressure."

"You would have to take a pay cut to become vice-president," responded Biden, before adding: "Think what you've done, Megan… It's all about the team. It's about a team, and you get it.

"You treat the other team-mates with respect. I really mean it, it's a gigantic thing."

Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

It was a decade full of skill, unforgettable moments and remarkable storylines.

Grand slam titles, Olympic Games gold medals, Rugby World Cups, Women's World Cups and more.

However, the impact and influence of some athletes proved more transcending than others.

We look at the most influential sports people of the past decade as we prepare to farewell the 2010s.

 

COLIN KAEPERNICK

Kaepernick has never swayed from his beliefs, even if it cost him a career in the NFL.

Following five years with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick hit the headlines when he kneeled during the United States national anthem in 2016.

The quarterback cited racial injustice and police brutality. He filed a grievance against the NFL in 2017, accusing owners of colluding to keep him out of a job. Kaepernick settled that grievance in February.

Despite some backlash, the 32-year-old inspired a nation – receiving support from Nike, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Megan Rapinoe and others. He even refused to meet the NFL's demands for a workout in November – all but ending his career. For Kaepernick, it has always been about more than American football…

SIYA KOLISI

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi lifted the Rugby World Cup in November. However, his influence stretches much further than a rugby pitch.

In a country embroiled in economic turmoil and racial unrest, Kolisi – the Springboks' first black captain in their 127-year history – is a beacon of hope.

Having come from an area marked by unemployment and lack of opportunity, Kolisi has become a household name and a genuine inspirational star, who can help unite a nation.

MEGAN RAPINOE

Outspoken on and off the field, Women's World Cup winner and United States star Rapinoe has transcended football.

From LGBT rights, gender equality and racial quality, Rapinoe has led the fights.

The 34-year-old has drawn the ire of US president Donald Trump, and even called out FIFA over the gulf in prize money for the women's and men's World Cups as she strives to make football and the world a better place, while maintaining her dominance on the pitch – winning the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin, last year's Golden Ball and Golden Boot.

ANDY MURRAY

A three-time grand slam champion and former world number one, Murray's lasting legacy may be his fight for gender equality – not just his on-court achievements.

Not one to keep quiet, just watch him play tennis, Murray has championed against sexism, especially after hiring Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014. 

In 2015, Murray wrote: "Have I become a feminist? If being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then I suppose I have."

SIMONE BILES

This decade saw the emergence of a gymnastics sensation, yielding four Olympic gold medals in 2016 and 19 World Championships golds - 25 in total - over the past six years.

Biles is the most decorated artistic gymnast of all time at just 22 years of age, establishing herself as one of the best athletes in the world in the face of adversity.

The once-in-a-lifetime talent won five gold medals in Stuttgart, while dealing with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

In 2018, she claimed she was sexually abused by ex-Team USA gymnastics sports doctor Nassar, encouraging others to do the same. She continues to influence the sport in innumerable ways. 

ANTHONY JOSHUA

In a decade dominated by UFC and the emergence of mixed-martial arts, Joshua has stood tall for boxing. Flying the flag in the ring, the heavyweight champion consistently attracts crowds that have never been seen in British boxing.

A game-changer for the sport, Joshua has broadened boxing's appeal beyond traditional audiences. For his bout against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in April 2017, a post-ward record crowd of 90,000 attended.

An estimated 80,000 spectators also took in his clash with Carlos Takam in Cardiff six months later. Joshua also took a title fight to Saudi Arabia in December - regaining his belts.

ALEX ZANARDI

Zanardi survived one of the most horrific non-fatal crashes in the history of open-wheel racing. The Italian lost both his legs in 2001, while he was also red his last rites.

However, Zanardi – who said he went 50 minutes with less than a litre of blood and his heart stopped beating seven times – was not done.

The former CART champion turned to paracycling and won two gold medals in his 2012 Paralympics debut, followed by another two in 2016.

CASTER SEMENYA

A two-time Olympic Games gold medallist and athletics star, it has been a tough end to the decade for Semenya but the South African inspired a nation in 2019.

She missed the World Athletics Championships in October after the IAAF proposed regulations regarding athletes with differences of sex development (DSD).

The new rule instructed athletes such as Semenya – who compete in events from the 400m to a mile, to take medication to lower their testosterone levels to take part in women's track events.

Despite lengthy legal battles and years of questions, Semenya continued to fight for her rights, leading to a Nike video in which she spoke about acceptance, self-love and respecting people for who they are. "I'm one kind of an athlete. I run my own race. It's all about me," said Semenya.

Kristine Lilly has backed the work done by Megan Rapinoe and her United States colleagues in building the profile of women’s sport.

Rapinoe is coming to the end of a stunning year in which she played a major role in the US winning the World Cup while also landing two major individual prizes in the FIFA Best and Ballon d’Or.

But it is her outspoken nature off the pitch that has arguably accelerated her rise to global prominence.

A vocal supporter of women’s rights and equal pay – as well as taking on US president Donald Trump in a Twitter spat - Rapinoe has become an icon for many around the world.

Former US midfielder Lilly, who holds the record for most international appearances by a male or female footballer with 352, was impressed with the way Rapinoe and her team-mates conducted themselves during the World Cup in France over the summer as well as their general outlook.

Asked about Rapinoe's influence, Lilly told Omnisport: "They have a platform, they are fighting for women’s sport, women’s football to make it a better environment and it’s being heard.

"It’s helping other countries to recognise that the investment is needed.

"The US team did a great job, the last World Cup was pretty phenomenal for what they accomplished. I’m proud of what they continue to fight for."

The World Cup in France elevated the profile of women’s football to new levels and Lilly is hopeful that momentum will continue.

She added: "There’s no other way to go. The investment that FIFA is putting behind the women’s game is the catalyst for it because of the recognition of where we are and where we need to go.

"The more teams we create, build that base up for competition, the better the World Cup will be.

"They are going to expand to 32 teams so we will need those teams to have some finance behind them. I see great things for the future of the women’s game. We have to keep backing it."

Megan Rapinoe has urged Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, as well as other leading male superstars, to be more outspoken on social issues including racism and sexism.

United States international Rapinoe won the women's Ballon d'Or this week, joining Messi on the stage at the annual awards gala as the Barcelona great claimed the men's prize for a record sixth time, one more than rival Ronaldo.

But Rapinoe, who has long been vociferous in her opposition to discrimination, does not believe her male counterparts are doing enough.

"I want to shout, 'Cristiano, Leo, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], help me'," she told France Football. "These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men's football.

"Do they have the fear of losing everything? They believe that but it's not true.

"Who would scratch Messi or Ronaldo's names from the world of football for a statement against racism or sexism?"

Rapinoe suggested recognition of her individual achievements was in part due to the way she has been open to discussing key topics.

"This Ballon d'Or rewards both," she said. "On the one hand, I am a very good footballer. On the other hand, my activism attracts support.

"People understand that I act to find solutions to the problems in our society. The idea is to empower others to speak loudly."

Megan Rapinoe has added another award to her collection after the United States star beat Lucy Bronze and Alex Morgan to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin.

The 34-year-old became a World Cup winner for the second time in July, claiming both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot in France as her six goals helped Jill Ellis' team retain their trophy.

That led to Rapinoe being named The Best FIFA Women's Player in September and she has now succeeded Ada Hegerberg by winning the second ever Ballon d'Or Feminin.

England and Lyon right-back Bronze finished second in the voting while Rapinoe's USA team-mate Morgan was third.

Rapinoe was not at the ceremony in Paris on Monday, but said she was shocked to be the winning the award.

"It's a bummer [not to be there]," she said.

"I congratulate all the nominees. I can't believe I'm the one winning it.

"I want to thank my team-mates, my coaches, my federation, to allow me to be the person who I am on the field and off the field.

"Thank you to my beautiful girlfriend Sue. I'm so sorry I can't be there, I know it's going to be insane but I'll do my best to get there next year."

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