The Ballon d’Or is an award awarded by UEFA and France Football magazine while “The Best” is awarded by FIFA, the ethically-challenged arbiter of the world’s most popular sport. Although prestigious as it is degenerate, both awards are nothing more than tangible compliments paid by the writers and experts (confederations administrators, coaches, football team captains, fans etc.) whose opinions and votes were canvassed. Presently, both awards have become an egotistical first past the post as nobody embodies the toxic and political nature of both awards than the recipients of the past decade. The comparisons of football players across and within football leagues (for these awards) is a time-honed guilty pleasure for fans. Like most sports awards, fans will always root for their favorites – but unlike many others, it’s hard to make a statistical case that one player is more valuable than another. The point is, teams are like machines. One part, no matter how important, cannot function properly without the other. That makes the award merely a measure of prolific goal-scoring but as any manager will tell you, that is probably not enough to carry a successful football team. Comparisons among football players are essentially what makes trading cards, sticker albums and fantasy soccer so popular but there should be no place for it in an official capacity. And how can we improve on what we have at present? The basic truth is we can’t, unless the awards are discontinued due to the following reasons:
Football is a Team Sport: Debate on individual footballers among football fans is fun but in a team sport with so many leagues, such individuality is impossible to measure precisely. Football (as we all know) is a team sport where eleven men from two separate squad of players compete against each other for a trophy or in modern times, to get a paycheck at the end of it all. Every football team requires world-class (supremely talented) goal-keepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers to excel and win domestic [EPL, Serie A etc.], continental [CAF, UEFA Champions League] and inter-continental [FIFA Club World Cup] trophies. No player or position is dispensable or greater than the other as they must all work in unison to achieve a common goal. Most great attackers of today (and yesteryears) would probably make terrible defenders and goalkeepers and most great defenders and goalies might be terrible attackers and midfielders in the game. It feels wrong to constantly elevate a particular set of football players over their teammates because of their position on the field of play. Football games are worn ‘Firstly’, by goals scored by a team’s strikers, midfielders, defenders and ‘Secondly’, by (potential) opposition goals stopped by that same team’s defenders and goal-keeper. No player truly wins a game single handedly except he plays all positions simultaneously – being at his penalty box defending and punching away the opposition’s shots on goal and at the same time running of to score all kinds of goals in the opposition penalty area. Most FIFA and UEFA individual awardees perform brilliantly when their team’s passing and playing style suit them thus giving them freedom like no other side would. Most managers strive to fit 11 players into the best team rather than having to fit the best 11 players into a team. There is a reason why reputable managers around the world like Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho have categorically despised and blasted such individual awards in a team based sport.
Biased towards Attackers: Winners of FIFA and UEFA awards (presently and in the past) are (nearly) always players who play close to the opposition goal – such as strikers and attacking midfielders – enabling them to score hatful of goals while putting faith in their teammates (defenders and goalkeeper) to prevent the opposing team from scoring and winning the game. In football, it is widely known and accepted that attack win games but defense win titles and trophies. Very few defenders and goalkeepers are recognized for their output on the field of play and the dirty work they do (so that their attacking teammates in the opposition goal can get the ball to score.) It is quite disheartening that attackers are paid way better than defenders and goalkeepers. Goalkeepers are usually the least paid in a football team, even with the alarming level of scrutiny aimed at them, which begs the question why anyone would choose to be a goalkeeper. No one has really found a way to compare the value of goal keepers to outfield players – much to the detriment of goalies. Should a goal stopped by a goalkeeper be treated as equally to a goal scored by a striker? How much should quality defenders influence our judgement of a keeper – and how much should quality midfielders influence our judgement of a forward? There can be no denying the fact that some players do improve the overall quality and effectiveness of certain teams, but even in that case, such extraordinary players wouldn’t be able to win anything for their respective teams if, for example, the goal keeper spills every shot fired at him by the opposition. The beauty of modern football is such that every player (bar the goalkeeper) is minimally required to score goals anytime, anyhow and whenever it pleases him or (to some extent) his coach, which makes the fact that individual awards given only to offensive players does a lot of disservice to their teammates and the sport.
No specific Criteria in given out the Awards: There are no specific criteria in given out individual awards to players by UEFA and FIFA in football competitions played. Most fans, and administrators do not know which competitions – the national league (EPL, La Liga, Serie A) the continental leagues (UEFA Champions League – since all FIFA individual awardees are based in Europe) or international tournament (The FIFA World Cup) – players’ performances in are given top priority when nominees for the FIFA and UEFA individual awards are compiled. Although most nominees and awardees of such awards play for football teams that are either champions in their domestic leagues or champions in the UEFA Champions League or champions in the World Cup (in a world cup year) with their countries, some winners of such awards play for club-sides and countries that were not champions in domestic, continental and international tournaments. Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or in 2010/2011 (because he scored 91 goals in a year) without winning Spain’s La Liga or Champions League with Barcelona or the World Cup with Argentina beating other deserving players who won at least one of the aforementioned competitions.
Breeds Individualistic and Selfish Footballers: In pursuit of individual awards from FIFA, some players forego team work and effort, preferring to go solo on the field of play – to show off (as fans would say) – to the detriment of the squad. Such players do not care if the team is winning or losing a game as long as they are scoring goals, boosting their goal tallies and being in contention for awards by shooting for goal instead of passing the ball to a better positioned teammate, taking every set-piece – free kicks, penalties, corner kicks – awarded in a game even when they have poor records taking such set-piece. This creates instances where a player wins The Ballon d’Or or The Best Player of the Year Awards because he has the highest number of goals in the football season in addition to 5 or 6 man-of-the-match performances and a few awesome highlight reels of the season while his team ends that season trophy-less and second-best in competition finals.
In conclusion, if there must be individual awards (for whatever bizarre reason) then they should be based on objective criteria such as number of goals scored (best striker), number of saves (best goal-keeper) or number of tackles made (best defender) etc. Even that wouldn’t make much sense because, again, scoring a goal is about team effort. No one player can score a goal without the help of his teammates. And Yes, even the solo goals require team efforts. Therefore, it becomes unfathomable as to why football’s governing body, FIFA would hand out these awards which are destructive to the very nature of the sport it is supposed to regulate. FIFA should not be lending its name to a beauty pageant.