The Best FIFA Football Awards, an occasion created to recognize footballers around the world for their talents and accomplishments, and designed to put together the best eleven players in the world for a World XI super team. Many times, players are awarded titles that they deserve at these awards. But other times, for the most part, a lot of eyebrows are raised about the decisions made by “voters” in the large panel of contributors towards the ceremony’s award winners. Which then leads to the question — are the FIFA Football Awards rigged?
Yesterday’s edition of the ceremony certainly suggested that.
Many fans around the world blasted FIFA for their “bias” towards Real Madrid players for the past two years, and this year was no different — particularly after their decision to include Luka Modric ahead of Lionel Messi in the list of the final three nominees.
Judging from the voters’ decisions, a lot of the players at the awards were present because of their performances in last summer’s World Cup in Russia, which is fair enough. But if that was the main criteria, why wasn’t Kylian Mbappe voted ahead of Mohamed Salah for the top three? Salah’s Egyptian team were booted out of the tournament in the group stage and finished last in their group.
It was a bit strange to see the same three from UEFA’s Best Player In Europe Awards appear again for a FIFA accolade. Salah may have had a phenomenal club season with Liverpool, but his international contribution on the world’s greatest stage was below par. However, among the three, it was obvious that Modric would have picked up the award for The Best Men’s Player, following his UEFA title.
Now here’s where the questions about yesterday’s ceremony really started to surface:
- Mohamed Salah won the FIFA Puskas Award for his goal against Everton — a rather regular goal by world class standards.
- Thibaut Courtois won The Best Goalkeeper, but was not the goalkeeper in the FifPro World XI.
- 3. Mohamed Salah was in The Best final three, but was not included in the FifPro World XI.
- Dani Alves was included as The Best Right-Back in the FifPro World XI.
If that’s not what you call rigged, what is?
For the FIFA Puskas Award, there were two bicycle-kick goals, a scorpion-kick goal and a 35-yard screamer nominated, yet Salah’s trademark slalom at Anfield was voted above those. It’s a goal we’re used to seeing from the Egyptian winger since his days at Basel, so it’s rather baffling to see Salah win the award. See for yourself and you be the judge.
Now, let’s look at the 2018 FifPro World XI:
In Courtois’s case, his Best Goalkeeper award was well warranted after his fantastic display in the World Cup. But the mind-boggling thing was that he was not included in the FifPro World XI. How does the “best” goalkeeper not make the World XI? In case you were wondering, David De Gea was the goalkeeper for the World XI, which did not sit well with many fans. De Gea had a mediocre World Cup and had a regular season with Manchester United, so not many understood the reasoning behind his selection for the World’s most elite team.
Another World XI selection flaw (or omission flaw, in this case) was Salah’s absence from the squad. He was a part The Best three players in the world but had no place in the World XI. How does that even make sense?
Dani Alves must also be highlighted. How did he manage to find himself in the World XI? He’s not even included in the Brazil national team; and barely the best right-back at PSG! So his inclusion here is absolutely crazy. The Spanish Dani (Carvajal) would have been a more reasonable selection for the position, considering he was an integral member in Real Madrid’s third consecutive Champions League-winning campaign as well as in their league expedition. Decisions like these degrade the FIFA Football Awards’ credibility.
Fittingly enough, neither Ronaldo or Messi showed up to the ceremony. It was a bit odd in Ronaldo’s case, as he was in the final three. He didn’t attend the UEFA Best Player in Europe ceremony either. Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to win the award so he didn’t see it fit to be there as a prop. Messi probably had the same mindset… or maybe he had family engagements. Whatever the cases were, it was a bit disheartening to not see the two players who dominated these awards ceremonies for the past decade.
It was clear to see, though, that FIFA compromised and denied worthy winners of various awards to satisfy the hype and popularity surrounding the players that they decided to highlight as their winners. As Phillip Lahm rightly suggested in 2016, it’s a popularity contest. It’s all about how they can benefit from the marketability of the players currently in the spotlight and, very soon, people will begin to discredit the FIFA Football Awards for their distasteful biases.
• The Best Men’s Player: Luka Modric
• The Best Women’s Player: Marta
• The Best Men’s Coach: Didier Deschamps
• The Best Women’s Coach: Reynald Pedros
• The Best Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
• FIFA Fair Play Award: Lennart Thy (Missed an Eredivisie match to donate stem cells to a leukemia patient)
• FIFA Puskas Award: Mohamed Salah
• FIFA Fan Award: Peru fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup