World Player of the Year? Yeah, whatever...
Two weeks from today, FIFA will announce its World Player of the Year at a glittering gala in Zurich. The three nominees for 2007 are Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) and Kaka (AC Milan and Brazil), which leaves us with the ultimate question: not 'Who will win the award this year?' but 'Does anybody really care
Forgive me if I sound like an old curmudgeon, but as award ceremonies go, this one comes bottom of my list when it comes to relevance and general interest.
It shouldn't do, of course. 'World Player of the Year' is a title which should be legendary amongst players and fans alike. To know that your team either features or is playing against someone that has been ranked above all others on the planet should send a tingle down your spine. So why doesn't it?
Well first of all, there's FIFA's ability to suck the excitement out of every fanciful occasion it organises from the World Cup Finals Draw downwards. You know the kind of thing - some guy in his mid-thirties wearing a sharp suit and the sort of smile you only see on a satellite shopping channel trying to waffle his way professionally yet cheesily through a running order that would be far better off without him.
He's usually accompanied by a small selection of former or current football players he's obliged to talk to briefly, all of whom give the impression they'd rather not be there. They're being watched by a sizeable audience of invited guests from 'the world of football' who aren't laughing at any of the jokes and are perpetually a matter of minutes away from dying an early death due to terminal boredom.
Then there are the nominees. This year, amazingly, we're spared the recent band of regulars (i.e. Ronaldinho, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry) but the damage, you feel, has already been done. Year after year of seeing the usual suspects leaves you with a distinct feeling of deja-vu. Even this year's trio of star names look familiar as though they've all been here once before, yet strangely they haven't.
Then there's the 'World' bit of the title. How often has the World Player of the Year been playing for a club that's not European or South American? The answer: never. George Weah came pretty close in 1995, but despite being born in Liberia, he was actually playing for AC Milan at the time.
And to get really
technical for a moment, of the 29 players who finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in FIFA's previous sixteen World Player galas, only three have been defenders and one a goalkeeper. Hardly a fair recognition of the talents that every player has regardless of the position he plays in, is it?
So please forgive me if I'm not on the edge of my seat eagerly awaiting this supposedly important announcement. I just feel that all of us as football fans have our own opinion of who the best player in the world is, and for those of us that don't, it isn't of that much relevance anyway. We all want to see our club and country win whenever they play, and that, for me, is the very essence of what's important about football as every individual fan sees it.
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