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Megan Rapinoe calls on Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo to help in fight for equality

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Is the Ballon d'Or what fuels Lionel Messi? (1:34)

Ale Moreno feels competing with Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or is the ultimate fuel for Lionel Messi. (1:34)

U.S. women's national team captain Megan Rapinoe has urged male superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to do more to tackle issues such as racism and sexism in modern football.

Rapinoe, 34, won the female Ballon d'Or award -- only the second in history -- on Monday after winning the World Cup, Golden Boot and Golden Ball in July.

Speaking with organisers France Football after her Ballon d'Or triumph, Rapinoe challenged Ronaldo, Messi and Ibrahimovic to follow her lead and be more active against problems in the sport.

"I want to shout: 'Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!'" she said. "These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men's football.

"Do they fear losing everything? They believe that, but it is not true. Who will erase Messi or Ronaldo from world football history for a statement against racism or sexism?

"They grew up in a bubble because of their exceptional talents. They were cut off from the real world and had everything at 20.

"I am both sad and angry. I would describe discrimination to them. I would also tell them we need support from men, even if they are not the first affected. They must be our allies.

"Imagine the impact if Cristiano Ronaldo said: 'we must invest in female football.' It would be enormous [if Messi left the pitch because of racist chants]. The referee would not dare to send him off."

Rapinoe helped the United States to its second World Cup title during her era with six goals and three assists, with one strike coming in the final and four more in the latter stages. She picked up the player of the match award in the final.

She was also voted into the FIFPro World XI and scooped up FIFA's The Best women's player prize.

Rapinoe believes her success this year rewards her achievements as a player but also as an activist.

"This Ballon d'Or rewards both," she added. "On the one hand, I am a good player. On the other, my activity away from the pitch brings me support as people understand I am acting to find solutions to our society's problems. The idea is to empower others to speak louder."

Rapinoe recognised her privileged position to be at the forefront of tackling societal issues but admitted that it is taxing, and travelling has particularly taken its toll.

"I am lucky to have a bit of talent to lead these fights," she said. "I have no fear, so I say what I say. Travelling all over for conferences and meetings exhausts me, but you have to be on the front line to improve things in our world."