For years, everyone thought the Balon d’Or was a joke, a sham. It was an award mired in controversy, a shining object signifying everything wrong with FIFA and it’s president, Sepp Blatter.
This year, Sepp probably thought, if you can’t beat them, join them.
The deadline for this award was November 15th. National team captains who don’t know the rules of the award, their coaches, and a select group of journalists would make their pick between incumbent Argentine forward Lionel Messi (also known as FIFA’s darling boy if you believe the conspiracy theorists), Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (the one that Sepp Blatter hates), and French midfielder Franck Ribery (the one who likes underage prostitutes).
The feeling was that Ribery, because of his club success with Bayern Munich last year, was the favorite. You had your CR-stans and your Messi acolytes campaigning for the other two, but it was supposedly Franck’s to lose. He even left space for it on his mantlepiece.
Not so fast, Franck.
Apparently, FIFA was so enthralled with Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick performance (or Franck’s France scoring 3 goals in Paris to salvage their World Cup dreams) on Tuesday that they decided to extend the deadline – which had already passed, mind you – to the 29th of November. What’s more, voters can even change their original votes.
I tweeted after Ronaldo scored his hat trick that he should win the award. It is an individual award (for the season? calendar year?) and he was the best individual this year, by far. Messi has been injured for most of the year, and Franck? Well, he’s just a cog in a well oiled machine.
This latest stunt, though, just invalidates the award. On a night when international football was at its highest and most entertaining, FIFA did the thing that they know how to do better than anyone else: they took the spotlight away from football, the very thing that Sepp Blatter says he is all about, and shined it onto themselves.
Football deserves better.