Are football awards getting more controversial?

Ibrahim Balogun
By Ibrahim Balogun
8 Min Read

Since the Ballon d’Or, many people have started to question the legitimacy and honorability of football awards in general. Even if you forget the potential ‘robbery’ with Lionel Messi’s seventh win, even things such as fan and writer-voted awards have gained scrutiny. So, are football awards getting more controversial?


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Now, this is where I would say it started. Sure, there have been things where people thought Theirry Henry deserved to win over Pavel Nedvěd in 2003, and that infamous Wesley Sneijder event in 2010. But even these older examples have been given their light of day over recent controversies.

To set the scene, the 2018 Balon d’Or was a memorable year for many reasons. It was expected to be a decade of Ronaldo and Messi dominance, with their first trophy coming in 2008. It was also the first year of the women’s trophy, and there was a lot of anticipation on who would win the first of many.

However, it was the more set-in-stone men’s trophy that caused the drama, as neither Ronaldo nor Messi got their sixth trophy, as it was Croatian starlet Luca Modric bagging his first. The trouble was Modric hadn’t had a wonder of a season and hadn’t even been on the Ballon d’Or podium before, despite having seasons with a similar output.

This result had an unprecedented effect on the Ballon d’Or, which was that, if you have a club and country who have a great year, then, no matter what you’ve contributed to that, if you are in the starting 11 you’ll get in the top 30. Luca Modric is a brilliant example of this, as his country (Croatia) got to the final, and his club (Real Madrid) won a Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, a Supercopa de España, and a Champions League trophy.


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What are the Globe Soccer awards? Well, the Globe Soccer Awards is a football award ceremony organised by the European Club Association in conjunction with the European Association of Player’s Agents and is delivered by the organisation Globe Soccer. Sounds fine, right? Well, that’s just smoke in front of mirrors. If you have a football award, you’d want it to be run by an independent agency, right? You wouldn’t want it to be run by a player, or a coach, or an agent. Well, for a while, it was involved in business with Jorge Mendes. As a result, the award has a reputation for being based on him, and also on his agents. For example, out of the 11 times, the title of ‘Best Agent of the Year’ was awarded, Jorge Mendes has won it 10 times. That’s a 91% win rate.

However, the Best Player of the Year award has been very confusing. Not only has Ronaldo won it 6 times since 2011, which is more than his entire Ballon d’Or collection. However, in the years where he didn’t win, it hasn’t gone to who the FIFA award usually gives it to. Compared to his 7 Ballon d’Or’s, Messi only has 1 Globe Soccer Player of the Year Award. The other ones went to Radamel Falcao, Frank Ribéry, and, the least surprising of those, Robert Lewandowski, in 2020.


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Everybody was shocked when FIFA announced another award ceremony in the summer of 2017, as they were already heading the most prestigious award in the world of football, the Ballon d’Or. However, these awards deviated a bit from the Ballon d’Or, giving out awards such as the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award. However, in an unusual fashion, the Ballon d’Or is seeming to close the slight differentiation between the two, as they gave out a Striker and Club of the Year for the first time.

Nevertheless, this time, the controversies seem to come from the women’s side more than the men. Many people have been surprised that Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema has not yet received a podium spot, and many say the same about Chelsea’s Sam Kerr. The criteria for these wins are unclear, and many believe that it is based off moment to moment glory, rather than sustained brilliance.


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This one’s going to be quite brief, as the main controversy has been spoken about in great depth all over social media. Apart from Lewandoski’s absence of what could’ve been his first and potentially only Ballon d’Or, many were surprised that, unlike things such as Oscars and the BAFTA’s, the Ballon d’Or did not go ahead for the year 2020. This prompted the question from many people of whether the Ballon d’Or is just a spectacle of celebrity culture or a spectacle of football culture. The answer? The former. You can see things such as celebrity arrivals taking precedence over many awards, such as the Kopa Trophy and the Women’s Ballon d’Or.


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And finally, we get to the mess that was this year’s Ballon d’Or. I’m not going to bother speaking about the Messi vs Lewandowski debate, because that, once again, is being dwelled on everywhere. However, I am going to speak about some things which have made certain fanbases confused, such as Arsenal fans wondering why Vivianne Miedema wasn’t given a podium spot and why Bukayo Saka was put below Mason Greenwood. Chelsea fans will also be confused, as they were wondering why Jorghino wasn’t given the trophy, as Modric’s win in 2018 was less deserved than Jorginho’s potential one. They were also confused on how Jenni Hermoso was put above Sam Kerr, and how Romelu Lukaku has put that low. I could go on and on. The thing is, due to these recent events, everyone is now starting to think, “hang on, if Modric got this with this many g/a, why can’t Jorginho?” Or “hang on, didn’t Radamel Falcao win the Globe Soccer Best Player of the Year, why can’t Karim Benzema?”. You get the point. Awards aren’t getting more controversial. Their choices are being given less clarity.

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