FIFA’s inability to function as a legitimate football organization has once again shone through. I’m not talking about giving Qatar the World Cup hosting rights in 2022. I am talking about FIFA awarding Argentina’s Lionel Messi the World Cup Golden Ball for best player of the tournament. The albiceleste captain “led” his side to the final of the World Cup where they were whole-heartedly dispatched by Joachim Low’s Die Mannschaft. Afterwards, despite a poor showing in the knockout stages of the competition, Messi was presented with the Golden Ball by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Interestingly enough, Blatter later was quoted as saying, “I was a little bit surprised when I saw Messi coming up to collect the best player of the competition.” Even the much ridiculed and supposedly corrupt FIFA president had no idea why Messi was the one to receive the award.
Lets start by figuring out how the awards are even chosen. A 13 man Technical Study Group (TSG) appointed by FIFA is in charge of selecting recipients for the various World Cup awards like Golden Ball, Golden Gloves, etc. Per FIFA’s official website, the TSG is defined as the following: “For the last four decades, the TSG has analyzed matches at international tournaments and highlighted the latest trends in the game… The TSG’s priority is to observe teams in matches and training sessions. Initial impressions are fleshed out in a series of in-depth conversations, with the objective of prompting discussion and an exchange of views.” (Read the whole post here http://fifa.to/1kqcEAv ).
This committee awarded Lionel Messi the Golden Ball. But what did Messi do that was so special to deserve it? What did he do better than any other player? Quite simply: nothing. He was not the top scorer. He did not provide the most assists. Was not the top rated player by Castrol (official World Cup sponsor) either. Yet he beat out players like Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, and teammate Javier Mascherano for the award. But he scored four times for Argentina, you might say. Lets break down his goals. One against 21st ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two against 44th ranked Nigeria. And one against 43rd ranked Iran. All four goals came in the group stage against teams ranked > 15 places below Argentina. After that, he did not score once and provided a solitary assist against Switzerland. During the quarterfinal against Belgium, he was marked out of the match. The same was the case in the match vs. the Netherlands in the semi-finals and Germany in the final. Messi was unable to showcase his skill when it really mattered. Meanwhile, players like Muller and Robben were scoring multiple goals against Portugal and Spain, respectively. This will not be an article “reawarding” the Golden Ball to a different player because Messi was terrible this World Cup. He wasn’t. But he was not at the level expected of him, and for the matter wasn’t even the best performer on his own national team.
Why did the committee give Messi the Golden Ball then? Political motivation. Messi received the Golden Ball because of South America’s shortcomings this World Cup. This culminated in host nation Brazil’s double humiliation first at the hands of Germany in the semi-finals (7-1) and then against the Netherlands in the 3rd place match (3-0). Argentina (second-favorites from South America) lost in the final, and were unable to score at all in the semi-final and final. South America was hyping how no European team has won the cup on their continent, but at the end of the tournament its teams had nothing to show for. Messi getting the Golden Ball “balanced” out Europe and South America, and was basically like an award for effort. Something that screamed “you did not do well, but we feel bad for you.” Another reason could be a marketing ploy. Messi is sponsored by Adidas, who also sponsor the Golden Ball. It could be that Messi winning best player was an Adidas marketing move to promote its products and its players.
FIFA’s attempt to be politically correct, although perhaps well intended, interfered with the beautiful game, and showcased how much needs to be fixed in world football. Although you may be thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t take it from me then. Take it from 1986 World Cup winner and one of the all time greats Diego Maradona. “Messi? I would give him heaven if possible,” said the 53-year-old on Telesur, “But it’s not right when someone wins something that he shouldn’t have won just because of some marketing plan.”