Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The FIFA Ballon d'Or awards;

For those of you rock dwellers, FIFA hosted it's annual gala last night, to dish out awards for outstanding footballing perfomances of the year 2012. To recap, Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the best player in 2012, ahead of Christiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. Vicente del Bosque won Coach of the Year, ahead of Pep Gurdiola and Jose Mourinho(who didn't bother to attend). The FIFA/FIFPro Team of the year was; Casillas, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Christiano Ronaldo, Messi and Radamel Falcao.

Naturally, some of these selections caused a lot of ire among certain sections of soccer fans. The loudest complaints came from fans of Robin van Traitor, who couldn't believe he was not on the team of the year. Folks also felt aggrieved that Andrea Pirlo wasn't included in that team; or even on the 3 man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or. Pep Gurdiola being up for coach of the year, despite coaching for 6 months of 2012 and only winning the Copa del Rey, wasn't well received. Let me comment on a some of these complaints;

It's true Pirlo should have been on the shortlist; but ahead of whom? Ronaldo or Messi? Definitely not. Iniesta? No, and this because for all Pirlo's Euro 2012 heroics(the basis for most people's arguments , Iniesta actually won the tournament; as the brains of the Spanish team(Iniesta played more through passes that led to  goal scoring chances, than all midfielders at the Euros combined!!). What's definite is that Pirlo deserved a place on the FIFPro XI ahead of both Alonso and Xavi, if not for anything, for being the heart of a Juventus side that won the Serie A unbeaten.

Robin van Persie had a scintilating 2012. The rabid calls for his inclusion in the XI seem however to be tribal fanaticism, to me. It seems Premier league fanatics refused to believe that the 'greatest league in the world' failed to get a single player on the team. Also, fans of the 'greatest team in the world' couldn't accept that one of theirs(albeit for 4 months) was snubbed. Of the three forwards selected, who would one have snubbed to insert RVP? Take into account that Falcao scored more goals in 2012, for club and country that van Persie, with significantly weaker supporting casts at both levels.

 Perhaps, all factors considered, the English league should have been represented by at least two defenders; Vincent Kompany surely should have gotten the nod ahead of Mr. Shakira. Ashley Cole (an integral part of Chelsea's Champions League winning team) has, is and will always be a better left back than Marcelo, and should have gotten into the team ahead of the Brazilian.

At the risk of sounding partisan myself, Gurdiola had no business being nominated for Coach of the Year. Antonio Conte(for Juve's unbeaten title run); Juergen Klopp(for knocking Bayern off their f****g perch) and Roberto di Matteo(for performing a miracle of Red Sea parting proportions) should all have been nominated ahead of the man who looked like as stressed as one being hunted for sport by the time he escaped to Manhattan in the summer.

All these perceived injustices were of course blamed on FIFA's incompetence by most. Some went as far as to say FIFA cheated Falcao by not awarding him Goal of the Year, forgetting that voting was open to the public on FIFA's website. I wish FIFA had never merged the old European Player of the Year award(Ballon d'Or) with their own World Footballer of the Year award. Back then, we all knew FIFA's award was a popularity contest and mostly political, while the Ballon d'Or was voted for by respected sports journalists and carried more weight. Though at times the two winners coincided, most of the time, FIFA's choices seemed ridiculous; like awarding Ronaldo da Lima their award, in 2002 after he played a handful of games at the World cup.

In FIFA's defence, they try to make the current awards as inclusive as possible by getting all national team coaches and captains to vote; as well as respected sports journalists. I guess then that the problem eith this system is the same problem with all democracies; idiots, fanatics, nuts and ignoramuses are allowed to vote. I doubt some of these chaps even watch European soccer. Maybe they catch Blitz highlights. Maybe!

I think, for the integrity of their awards, FIFA need to use a vetting committee to provide a kind of 'guided democracy' like they do at the Oscars. Maybe the sports journos thoroughly comb through the nominees and stats, and come up with shortlists that guide the voters. Without a more thought out approach, these awards will always be looked upon with suspicion, especially given FIFA's track record of scandal.

If I had a vote..

World Footballer of the Year; Leo Messi

Coach of the Year; Juegen Klopp

Team of the Year; Casillas, Hummels, Chiellini, Ramos, A. Cole, Pirlo, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo,         Falcao

Akward moment of the night.

Christiano Ronaldo telling a young child that one of the tenets of success is humility. That was very rich, coming from a man who claims he's booed, not for his arrogance, but because he is, "rich, handsome and good at football" He also has some of the vainest goal celebrations in world football; like pointing at his thigh after scoring a thunderbolt of a freekick.

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