The FIFA awards aren’t just a popularity contest; they’re a laughingstock

Football’s top awards have long been prestigious and admired, but FIFA have somehow turned one of the sports’ most decorated award shows into a laughing stock.

In this year’s edition of FIFA’s “The Best” awards, we saw the end to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance in FIFA’s Men’s Player of the Year race. While it was a breath of fresh air, and perhaps something football needed, it seemed to be a decision that was forced by football’s desperate need to break away from the norm.

Luka Modric had a phenomenal 2018 and deservedly found himself praised around the world for his contributions to both his club and country. At club level, Modric played an instrumental role in yet another Champions League triumph for Real Madrid, their third consecutive title. In the summer, on football’s biggest stage, Modric led the small nation of Croatia to an unprecedented World Cup Final appearance. Modric was even awarded the World Cup’s Golden Ball, but there is a separate debate to be had on whether or not he deserved that.

The Croatian deserves his credit for an amazing season full of highs, but the decision to be named Player of the Year over the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things.

The Puskas Award, an award given to the best goal of the year, was won by Mohamed Salah for reasons we don’t understand. Salah’s incredible campaign for Liverpool saw him score brilliant individual goals throughout the season. His strike against Everton, which was arguably his 3rd or 4th best goal of the season, somehow found itself nominated for the Puskas Award and eventually, it inexplicably won. While the goal itself is good, it’s a fairly common goal compared to the bicycle kicks of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Riley McGree’s wonderful scorpion kick. The award is decided by fan votes, but it was arguably the most ludicrous award of the night.

Finally, the FIFPro XI has come under fire over the last half-decade due to questionable choices, and the 2018 choices continued that trend. Mohamed Salah, nominated for the Player of the Year, was somehow left out of the Team of the Year. Lionel Messi, who finished an inexcusable fifth place in Player of the Year voting, found himself in the XI. Dani Alves, who is nowhere near the player he once was and missed the World Cup due to injury, was yet again included in the FIFPro XI for reasons we will never understand. David De Gea was named as the goalkeeper for the Team of the Year, yet the night’s award for Best Goalkeeper went to Thibaut Courtois. In addition, Manchester City’s record breaking Premier League title win wasn’t enough for any of their players to earn a spot in the FIFPro XI.

Overall, it was a night full of farcical decision making. The inconsistency in voting and eventual winning of awards made FIFA’s “The Best” out to be a joke. Players who deserved their chance to be correctly honored were embarrassed on a worldwide scale and FIFA have managed to take away the importance and honor of these awards. It’s a sad day for football when players and goals that deserve their moment in the spotlight, are robbed in plain sight.

By: Harry Harris

Photo: AFP