xavi and iniesta.jpgBy Ian Zvoma


The new-look Fifa Ballon d’Or Award, which saw Barcelona and Argentina’s Lionel Messi winning it ahead of the much fancied Andres Inietsa and Xavi, has not gone without controversy as many thought the man nicknamed the Atomic Flea did not deserve it, at least judging by his performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


Messi got 22,65 % of the votes from captains, coaches and journalists drawn from FIFA’s national federations, while Andres Iniesta finished second with 17,36% and Xavi Hernandez on 16,48%.


Commenting on the award, BBC columnist, Phil Minshull said, ‘’Six television stations across Spain, as well as many internet sites, showed the event live but commentators, almost to a man and woman, were surprised when Lionel Messi was announced as the winner.


Even Messi himself, looking just ever so slightly uncomfortable in his Dolce & Gabbana suit, seemed rather embarrassed at the outcome.”


The Spanish media was united in condemning the process and in particular vented their anger on FIFA president, Sepp Blatter.


They believed that Spain was the biggest loser and went further to put the whole issue into a Spanish perspective in which they argued that the world champions lost on the ultimate prize for the outstanding footballer even though 6 Spanish players were included in Fifa’s 2010 world all-star team.

iniesta goal.jpg

The Popular Marca wrote: ‘’Without doubt the biggest loser on this night was Spanish football…only yesterday he (Blatter) left us without the chance to organise the World Cup, but instead opting for Russia and yesterday he left us without a prize that Spanish football deserved.’’


To them, the award should have gone to either Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in the extra-time victory over the Netherlands at the World Cup in South Africa, or Xavi, who has been labeled the brains behind the team as he orchestrated much of the team’s play.


In contrast, despite his fantastic skills and 34 goals, which gave him the European Golden Boot last season, Messi had a largely disappointing World Cup, where he failed to score while his national team was eliminated in embarrassing fashion by Germany at the quarter final stage.


I personally and strongly believe it should have been won by Iniesta not only because of the importance of the goal he scored in the final, but because of his general play and it is not by coincidence that he is nicknamed, Sweet Iniesta, derived from the perfection in his passing game.


This is besides the fact that I hate Barcelona with a passion because my favourite team after Liverpool is Real Madrid.


But I am not blinkered by that, I see and think outside the fanatic box. I appreciate great talent when I see it, even in the opposition camp.
messi in action.jpg
I agree with former Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard, who describes Iniesta’s passing ability as “like watching somebody hand out sweets.” Others describe him as ‘’a wonderful technician and one of the finest exponents of the passing game in Europe with an admirable willingness to work ceaselessly for his team. His dribbling, vision and poise all catch the eye while his versatility also marks him out as the complete midfielder.”


So much about Iniesta.


The main issue is that the unfolding drama on who should have won the award got me thinking. Several questions came to my mind. Why????


Because as far as my memory serves me right, the FIFA Player of The Year Award and the previous Ballon d’Or Award have never been this controversial.


Why would the distinguished gentlemen and women who were tasked with the responsibility of selecting the man, who won the ultimate individual soccer award ignore what happened in South Africa, where according to the Spanish media, Messi was largely anonymous?


They don’t call it the world’s biggest soccer showcase for nothing and if a player fails to shine at the tournament, late alone fail to score a single goal, then why should he be the World Footballer of the Year?


Some argue that Messi’s disappointing World Cup show was a result of his team’s failings rather than his own. They further point out that his teammates failed to provide him with the service he needed to thrive. WHAT NONSENSE!!!!


So they want to tell us that those who provide him with the same kind of service at Barcelona such as Iniesta and Xavi do not matter when it comes to winning the prize. If that service is so much important to him why not award the provider and not the recipient? Even the Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive!


Moreover, that argument basically means that Messi needs the help of others to thrive. He cannot stand on his own once Iniesta and Xavi’s supply line is cut off.


When the two are missing there is no Lionel Messi.  What it then means is that those who made the decision to give the award to Messi celebrated mediocrity if we consider his performance at the World Cup and whenever he is playing for Argentina.


Mediocrity because there were better options, Messi is indeed a great player, I don’t deny but for the year which was under consideration, there were certainly better options.


Even his own countrymen demonstrated before the World Cup questioning his commitment whenever he is in national team colours.


In the end, an analytical view of his shortcomings when he plays for Argentina will point to the absence of the creative hub which at Barcelona is epitomised by Iniesta and Xavi.


In the end, Messi seems to have won it on sympathy not on the strength of his performance and certainly not because he was better than the other two candidates.


I will even go further and argue that I believe that Inter Milan and Netherlands’ Wesley Sneider deserved to be in the top three alongside Xavi and Iniesta because his polished performance did not only end with his team, but he went a step further and set the World Cup alight.


I agree with Minshull, who argues that, “Even though the three men on the shortlist have performed outstandingly, there are many people, including myself, who were surprised that Netherlands and Inter Milan star, Wesley Sneijder was not among the final trio.”


So in the end, the debate as Minshull points out zeroes in on how the award is decided.


We have had our own fare share of debate on the local scene concerning who selects the Soccer Star of the Year and how the process is conducted.


Some have suggested that it should not be left to journalists alone because they have on many occasions disappointed the nation with the process being marred by controversy.

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It has been suggested that just like the Ballon d’or Award, players represented by their captains and coaches should be included, which to me sounds noble.



BUT will this make it perfect, when internationally acclaimed journalists, captains and coaches also attract their fair share of controversy? Is it so much about who is on the panel or the knowhow which is a bit lacking?


Who exactly spoiled the party for Iniesta and Xavi?  Was it the media, team captains or the coaches?


At the end of the day even those whom we think are well versed in these issues seem not to be. FOOD FOR THOUGHT.