Sunday, December 8, 2013

BALLON d' OR 2013

On November 15, 2013 Sweden lost to Portugal 2-3 and Portugal sealed their place for the FIFA World Cup 2014 finals to be held in Brazil. All of Portugal’s goals in that well-contested match were scored by Cristiano Ronaldo. That same day FIFA announced that the deadline for voting for the Ballon d’Or award for the year had been extended to November 29. The reason given was this: not many people had voted by then. Portugal’s victory and FIFA’s decision happening on the same day could be sheer coincidence, but many read a connection between the two. Some said that the highly influential UEFA President, Michel Platini, was behind it as he wanted Ribery of Bayern Munich to win the award this year. But the other day Platini joked that the reason for the extension was to garner support, not for Ribery, but for the “Real Madrid forward”. In Spain at least, some sports journalists thought it wasn’t a joke, it was a statement made in all seriousness. It appears that Ribery was leading in terms of support for the award till FIFA made its amazing announcement (hopefully this does not become a precedent), but conceded that advantage to Ronaldo on that night because his goals were seen as almost the sole reason for Portugal’s progress in the most famous football tournament in the world. In any case, when decisions, such as this one of FIFA, are taken and the reasons given for them are unusual and unconvincing (and somewhat amusing too!), conspiracy theorists have a field day. And as for conspiracy theories, one can never be sure which is most likely to be the closest to the truth; at the very best one can only say which is the most fascinating as a story and is most capable of generating more and more conspiracy tales.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s reported reaction to Platini’s observation was sharp: he said he was in a mood to boycott the ceremony this year. It seems to have been more spontaneous than carefully thought out because the gains of this statement are unclear. Suppose he beats Ribery and Messi and gets the award this year, what will he gain by not receiving the award in the formal ceremony? It would cause embarrassment to all concerned; any way he would be given the award later. Suppose he doesn’t get it, what will he gain by not attending the ceremony? Nothing! If he wants to make a statement, he should make it now - he should say that he would not accept the award in protest against suggestions that are unfair to him. But this is unlikely to please many or convince many that his grievance is justified. If one or two people, even when they happen to be very powerful and influential, make uncharitable remarks about one, it is not justifiable enough for someone of his stature to take such a stand. In fact, some would maintain that those remarks would actually help his case because the anti-establishment votes would go to him as he would be seen as the victim. 

Ronaldo’s reaction had been angrier and more bitter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s observation about him on October 29 at the Oxford University Union in England. Asked to opine on Ronaldo and Messi, he had said that the former spent more on hair dressing than the latter, and as for who is the best, he said he “liked both of them” but he “preferred Messi”. Set aside the unfortunate hair dressing remark, which Blatter maintained was made non-seriously, and for which he readily apologized to the Real Madrid President and to Ronaldo, and which were, incidentally, not accepted by the player, it was entirely inappropriate for Blatter to publicly say that he preferred Messi to Ronaldo. The reason is that the voting for the Ballon D’Or for 2013 was in progress at that time and one might suspect that his view would probably tilt the scales in favour of Messi, a possibility that Blatter himself did not rule out, although as mentioned earlier, there is reason to argue that this remark would more likely benefit Ronaldo for reasons of victim-hood.  

Part of what Ronaldo said by way of response – “much is explained now” - shows that he believed that Messi had won at least some of his Ballon d’Or awards because of Blatter’s support for him. He said he wished Blatter a long life so that “he will continue to witness...the success of his favourite teams and players.” Considering the nature of the Electoral College, he was wrong about Messi, but one would understand that he had reasons to react as cynically as he did, but let us not go into all that now.

Now, was FIFA’s extension of the voting period an act of correcting the indiscretion by Blatter? Was the FIFA President trying to please Real Madrid?

Arsene Wenger has disapproved of the obsession with Ballon d’Or. In a different way, the brilliant Paris Saint-Germain and Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said something similar: “It seems very important for other players, but for me it’s not important...I don’t need a trophy to tell myself that I’m the best”. But FIFA, media and the football community have made Ballon d’Or so important. 

The latest one hears about Ballon d’Or 2013 is that it may go to Messi again, notwithstanding the fact that since April he has been plagued by injury and has been more outside the field than in it. But if he gets it, one may not be entirely surprised. Till his injury he was playing superb football and had scored many goals, and had richly contributed to Barcelona’s winning the League title, and in La Liga this year he was playing very well too despite not being fully fit, till his injury forced him to withdraw. True, he did not score in some four matches or so, but in those matches he played very well and made a difference for his team. However, at the same time, if he gets the award, then it would underscore perhaps for the first time, the difference between the professional assessment (that of the Electoral College) and assessment by the football audience of leading footballers.

In any case, things are really messy this year. The extension of the voting date is only one of the problems. Now if Messi gets the award, as is rumoured, then there is a problem, if he doesn’t, then whosoever gets the award, for many it would be the case of the award going to X when Messi is out of action on account of injury. Finally, 2014 is the year of the World Cup. If the Ballon d’Or winner doesn’t perform in the World Cup, then his Ballon d’Or would not salvage his name.

1 comment:

Kakoli Dey said...

Someone once said....foul smells are just a state of mind. It is a psychological realization. We might encounter people who see and smells foul in everything and at the same time there are people who are comfortable with any kind of situation. What I feel that at times if we are in such situations we can divert our mind to something else in stead of exaggerating it. I have also encountered people who by the very thought of fish, say for example, reacts obnoxiously.
I once happen to visit Mathura/Vrindavan (India) and there is a place called Nikunjaban --sacred abode of Radha-Krishna. As I was in communique with a sage trying to know about the origin of the place and other stuff, I inquired why this place is littered with excreta of human and animals around and the pungent smell in the air? To this he got infuriated and said in a strong way, 'everything is clean here' and thus refused to talk to me further.
Thank you for highlighting this topic. I am still confused with the Sage's response and the attitude.