Whose FIFA Best Awards?

Lionel Messi 2022 coronation in Bisht
Lionel Messi 2022 coronation in Bisht

According to that beacon of Football Fair Play, FIFA, their Best Awards for player and coach of the year, both male and female, are to be awarded thus:

The Best trophies for player and coach of the year, in both men’s and women’s football, will be the result of a combined voting process, in which 50 percent of the decision will be taken based on the choices of captains and head coaches of all national teams around the globe. The other 50 percent will be split between the result of an online public ballot and the submissions from a selected group of over 200 media representatives from six continents.

Let’s just look at the male player award.

The problems begin, of course, the moment you realize that the vote numbers are actually 25% from fans, 25% from national team coaches, 25% from national team captains, and 25% from selected global media.

To begin with, the fan numbers are collated by FIFA so who knows what they really are? In this year’s voting, they were skewed thus—Benzema and Mbappe jointly accounted for 592,000 fan points (30%) while 1,346,000 fan points (70%) went to Messi alone. Continuing the trend, Messi’s Coaching points vote total was 728 while the combined Benzema-Mbappe number was 708. Messi’s Captain points vote total was 717 while the combined Benzema-Mbappe number was 696. Messi’s Media points vote total was 836 while the combined Benzema-Mbappe number was 737.

The reported fan numbers mirror the voting by the media, coaches, and captains and you might say, well that makes sense the votes are consonant but are they?

The problems are legion. Start with the fact that a national coach and captain can be representing a nation of 1.408 billion people, like India, who voted for Karim Benzema, or one with 0.0001 as many people but with the same voting power such as Seychelles with a population of 99,258, who voted for Lionel Messi. Where is the consonance with the fan voting here?

Similarly, a second problem arises in the captain-coach voting. As Austrian Captain, David Alaba, stated, even such individuals are not free to vote their own minds but must acquiesce to the cumulative choice of their team. Austria coach Ralf Rangnick also cast his vote for Messi. One might extrapolate that, thus, potentially 50% of the FIFA Best vote, as exemplified by both the captain and coach of Austria, could have voted for Lionel Messi, because the majority of their players (?), one would have to assume, represented their fans’ wishes and thus supported Messi. Could that really have been the case across the board on a 70-to-30 basis?

Finally, one has the media vote. The first problem one faces is that Papa has direct experience dealing with FIFA as an independent media person. I was invited to the Cayman Islands for a FIFA-CONCACAF summit and told I would have an exclusive interview with then Confederation President Jeffrey Webb. But someone in their media office looked up my site and found out I was not writing pieces favorable to FIFA, and guess what, I found myself shunted to the fringes of the conference, my credentials were questioned to the point I had to identify myself via the vouching of other media contacts, and I never got my interview with Webb. To me, FIFA cherry-picks media folk they know they can cajole into doing their bidding, or, at times, pick media people they cannot avoid choosing given the media person’s stature. It is also interesting that few of the folks Papa would consider among top futbol journalists in the world seem to be on the list of media voters.

One last intriguing fact. If you take the populations of just eleven countries (5% of the total of approximately 200 nations who are voting members of FIFA)—namely Afghanistan, Brazil, Congo, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania, and Turkey—whose non-fan first choice votes happen to have been cast for someone other than Messi, you realize those votes represent nations with a cumulative 2.392 billion people. If we posit that the non-fan voters are supposed to be somewhat representative of their fans, or at least vote in a way that is consonant with their fans, as shown above by FIFA’s numbers, then you would have to think the numbers would be as consonant as they were reported to be by FIFA.

But, on a planet with a population of 7.888 billion people, 2.392 billion non-Messi votes would mean that those eleven countries alone represent over 30.32% of the potential fan base, and if we were to be consonant, we would have to say that that number of fans represents more than the “fan points” FIFA awarded to Mbappe and Benzema combined. Right?

Now I know nations are not homogeneous, they are instead filled with folks of different opinions, and voters could cast three votes in any case, but just following the flawed logic of the aforementioned one would have a hard time squaring with the idea that just about all the other nations in the world (189) would have had to unanimously vote for Messi for him to have the FIFA reported 70%-30% fan points vote advantage? Doesn’t that seem a bit of stretch, even for FIFA? Maybe it’s just that FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, just forgot to bring out the Bisht.

If it looks like a Bisht, wears like a duck, fits like a duck…well you know.


Photo: Lionel Messi 2022 coronation in Bisht, Shutterstock ID: 13670813grm by Dave Shopland/Shutterstock