While driving, I turned my radio on, “Messi , Messi” screamed the RJ and the callers backed him up. Returned home, relaxed and turned my TV on. The famous face popped up again during the commercial breaks! You may be wondering what this has to do with FIFA but you surely have got a feel of FIFA awards by now.
Popularity and endorsement – the two things which had been the crunch of the FIFA awards over the years, never ceased to play its part. Lionel Messi winning the golden ball and Maradona’s so called lashing out – these may have been the talking points over the past few days but this thing is not new for the World’s largest sports body. The Barcelona genius surely deserved consolations and accolades, but anything else, like the Golden Ball will surely raise eye brows.
According to a Forbes article, the world cup ball manufacturers as well as awards sponsor Adidas failed to beat arch rivals Nike comprehensively although Adidas sponsored Germany won the world cup and brand ambassador Leo Messi won the golden ball. Why? Because the lone goal scorer of the final game, Mario Gotze, wears Nike shoes! This rings a bell and shows that in the sporting world the rivalries of the brands are very much alive. With FIFA’s technical study group choosing Messi, ahead of top performers like Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels and Javier Mascherano, the integrity of such awards are bound to be questioned in a world influenced by brand rivalry and vested interests.
In the previous years, the golden ball or such awards were given on the basis of votes of eminent sports journalists, with this year being the exception, which saw FIFA technical study group decide it. Over the past years, except Oliver Kahn in 2002, all the golden ball awardees were strikers. The defenders and holding midfielders got missed out every time, even though they did the hard work for the team and may have scored even assisting a few times. Mostly when an award is decided on votes, this has the potential of being over-rated, as popularity matters and popularity can easily influence the outcome..
Proceeding further in this matter, we can turn back the pages and look at the prestigious Ballon d’Or award of FIFA which is again decided by votes of journalists and the coaches and captains of national teams in recent years. To start with, in the year 2006, it was awarded to Fabio Cannavaro, for leading the Azurris to a world cup victory after 24 years. The same year also saw one of the strong contenders, Thierry Henry, who put in a brilliant display in his Arsenal colors scoring 33 goals ending up as the runners up in Champions’ League, missing out on the trophy. The Arsenal legend also who earned plaudits while playing for France in the world cup, ended up as the runners-up.
Now if world cup brilliance was the criterion for the Ballon d’Or, let us look at what happened in 2010. Wesley Sneijder, scoring 5 goals in the world cup and earning the Bronze boot, was the main architect behind the phenomenal journey of the dutch brigade in South Africa. Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez were the other two contenders who helped their national team win the World Cup and showed brilliance in Barcelona mastering the Tiki Taka . But Sneijder came fourth with the Barcelona midfield maestros just ahead of him and behind the winner Lionel Messi, though having a poor display for the Albiceleste in world cup, earned the award for scoring maximum no. of goals for his club side.
All these examples about the FIFA awards epitomize the inherent flaws in the system and the fans should not take it as an absolute measure of a footballer’s performance.