17 January 2018

Is the FIFA Ballon D’Or award unfair?

Sepp Blatter at signing of agreement creating FIFA Ballon d’Or in Johannesburg 2010 (Credit: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr)

Sepp Blatter at signing of agreement creating FIFA Ballon d’Or in Johannesburg 2010 (Credit: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr)

In January 2016, Lionel Messi won his 5th FIFA Ballon D’Or for a magnificent and mesmerizing performances in 2015, leading FC Barcelona to winning the treble for the second time in the their history.

Since KAKA’ won FIFA Footballer of the year and France Football Ballon D’Or in 2007, and deservedly so, the award was only won by two players, Cristiano Ronaldo (three times) and Leo Messi (five times) to date.

Ballon D’Or, also known as European Footballer of the year award, had been awarded by France publication France Football since 1956, European sport journalist selected by France Football voted for the winner of the award. Only European players were eligible to win, until 1995 when non-European players who play for European teams were eligible. It makes you think how many Maradona or Pelle would’ve  won, if they were eligible to compete.

As for the FIFA footballer of the year, it was introduced in 1991, with an international scope, voted by National team coaches and captains under FIFA jurisdiction. Positional voting was used as a voting system, each voter is allotted three votes, worth five points, three points and one point, and the top three are ordered based on total number of points.


Following the introduction of the global Ballon D’Or format in 2007, FIFA and France Football decided to merge the two awards, as the winner were identical from 2005. During  the World Cup 2010 hosted by South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announcing the agreement and the creation of FIFA Ballon D’Or.

The same positional voting system that was used for the FIFA Player of the Year award was applied for the new award, in addition to votes from International media representatives.

The first FIFA Ballon D’Or was criticized, as Wesley Sniejder who led his team Inter Milan to win the triple, and his National team Holland to the final of the World Cup in 2010, wasn’t even in the top three, as Barcelona trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta was voted ahead of him.

The award turned into more of popularity contest. Philipp Lahm in his goal.com column criticized the award as being for only the “most visible” players and insisted it has become “a vote for the world’s best striker.” He also criticized the voting system, as National team coaches, captains and select group of journalist from around the world get to vote.

I tend to agree with him, the award is turning to be more of a popularity contest, each national coach tend to vote for his star player(s), while the award is suppose to recognize the best performs in the football scene in that particular year. The France Football Ballon D’Or was awarded to player such as Matthias Sammer of Germany in 1996 for his major role in Germany EURO 96 triumph, while playing as a holding midfielder/Sweeper, while not even making the top three in FIFA Player of the year award.

It’s time to change the format, to something similar to the NBA MVP (Most Valuable Player) award, the award is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, each of whom casts a vote for first to fifth place selections, or to add Defensive Player of the year, as no defender made it to the top three in the last six years except for one time, when Manuel Neuer finished 3rd in 2015.

The voting should be conducted by Journalist that actually follows football week in and week out. For instance, how national team coaches and captains find time to follow the leagues and decide who should win?

It seems like FIFA corruption is spreading in every aspect of the football’s governing body, it’s time for a change, or bring separate the two awards again.



Khalid Ghandour is a marketing professional and a football enthusiast based in Khartoum.

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