Ballon d’Or is an award given to the best soccer player every year by France Football magazine. It is the most popular and prestigious award but it’s quite controversial.
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History of Ballon d’Or
Best, van Basten, Ronaldo, Platini, Baggio, and Messi – Ballon d’Or is like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a chronicle of greatness in which the main people in the history of the game are immortalized. France Football journalists would like this to be true, but it is not.
Pele does not have a Ballon d’Or. And Maradona too. Although the award has been presented since 1956, it was only given to Europeans until the mid-90s. This was when club soccer was of no interest to anyone, and the World Cup was the number one tournament. By the time they guessed to give the Ballon d’Or to players from any country, 15 world championships were played. Seven were won by Europeans, eight by Latinos. This means that the main individual award in the history of soccer does not account for more than 50% of soccer history before 1995. It sounds absurd, but this is just the beginning.
The confrontation between Messi and Ronaldo, which took place at the boom of social networks and the peak of globalization, became for all soccer a historic chance to go beyond sports (albeit the most popular) and turn into an independent product in the global entertainment industry. Like Hollywood or HBO or pop music or reality TV. Football used this chance. For example, Ronaldo is the most popular person on Instagram, and few top clubs or top players have fewer than a few million followers.
What’s wrong with Ballon d’Or?
Soccer as a whole, even while remaining a conservative and somewhat archaic phenomenon, has changed, adapted to new conditions and got better. According to statistics, the quality of the game has become higher than before. Now soccer players run faster than 30 years ago, shoot more accurately, play better at passing. Every year, one of the top clubs sets a new record – that is, it turns out to be statistically better than anyone else before. Analysts have come to soccer with laptops, who look not at the field, but at the data set. And other analysts who hang drones over the field and look at the monitors for the movements of the players.
Soccer is progressing. France Football is not. The magazine is not ready for the current level of publicity and transparency. And even a temporary alliance with FIFA did not help. But having regained independence, France Football did not get better. Independence began with an idiotic scandal: in October 2018, before the awards ceremony, the magazine launched a vote for the best player of the year on the website. Messi won, who, according to the official version, did not even make it into the top 3. And the vote was simply removed from the site.
The Ballon d’Or is guaranteed worldwide attention – but only because it is the most famous individual soccer award. And not because the most adequate, the most professionally organized or the most honest.