The Golden Ball is no longer credible (and this is very sad)

When Antonio Cassano talks about Francesco Totti’s career, he always says something very precise: “Away from Rome you could have won the Ballon d’Or”. The mind of the player from Bari, whenever the two are together, always ends up in that funnel. As if it were an obsession. The former Sampdoria sits next to what was (also) his captain, immediately returns to the early 2000s and imagines Totti in that Paris, with wet hair that reaches almost to his shoulders and the prize in his hand . For him, this is the photograph that gives immortality.

A few hours ago, Lionel Messi was elected winner of the 2021 Ballon d’Or. This is the seventh victory for the Argentine – who without the 2020 edition canceled due to Covid-19 completes another back-to-back in the history of the award – but even if he is also “sick” of the Golden Ball how Cassano could have applauded the choice, this assignment (like so many others in the last ten years) perfectly symbolizes the short circuit of a polarized world that needs the same things more and more to feel good.
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1. Leo Messi 613 points
2. Robert Lewandowski 580 points
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5. Ngolo Kanté 186 points
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7. Mohamed Salah 121 points
8. Kevin De Bruyne 73 points
9. Kylian Mbappé 58 points
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma 36 points

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A bit of history

If we take a step back in time, the world of football was truly rainbow when Gabriel Hanot had the brilliant idea of ​​creating an award that went to reward the best European player of the year through the votes of the specialized press. In the first 20 years of the Golden Ball (1956-1977), in addition to the great powers such as Spain, England and France, even “the province of the empire” managed to find its world limelight (Hungary, Scotland, Czech Republic, Denmark and Northern Ireland), offering many insights on a geopolitical level. Even when the discrimination of European nationality fell (1995) the prize kept his soul intact, “making mistakes” in some choices but remaining faithful to the ideas of the founding fathers.

With the entry in the 1910s, FIFA – tired and jealous of the antagonist to her FIFA Wolrd Player – decided that the award entered the collective imagination (also and above all of people like Antonio Cassano) he had to forcibly change. From the Golden Ball to the FIFA Golden Ball, with the jury that expanded by the various coaches, captains of each national football team and representatives of the FIFPro. From that precise moment, for six very long years, the Golden Ball took a totally different shape from Hanot’s thought. It was transformed into a prize without purity, like a stream soiled with rubbish, awarded to the most famous and not to the most deserving.

[Ancora oggi le scelte di quel lustro+1 sono ricordate come più ridicole di sempre (piegate ad un calcio che stava – e sta tuttora – prendendo una direzione tossica), tanto che nel 2016 France Football pose fine alla collaborazione con la FIFA rispolverano l’originaria formula del Pallone d’oro di stampo unicamente giornalistico].

Leo Messi with the 6th Golden Ball (Barcelona)

Credit Foto Getty Images

An award that is no longer credible

As much as Lionel Messi is universally recognized as the master of football for the past 13 years, this 2021 takes us back to the recent past. If the first two criteria for voting, as Paolo Condò wrote on Twitter, are individual performances combined with team performances during the year and the talent-fairplay duo, “give” another prize to the Argentine (after that of 2019) does not help France Football, does not help football and it doesn’t help the future of matter either.

[Fino a quando il Pallone d’Oro è stato un premio credibile (2009) ha sempre privilegiato le vittorie con la nazionale. Poi, in caso di parità, prendeva in considerazione quelle con il club. In questo 2021 Messi ha sì vinto la Copa America con l’Argentina, ma con il Barcellona non è riuscito ad arrivare nemmeno ai quarti di Champions League. Jorginho invece la coppa delle grandi orecchie l’ha vinta, e al tempo stesso ha pareggiato il risultato del 34enne di Rosario vincendo l’Europeo con l’Italia. Per cui, a parità di successi con la nazionale, l’italiano era avanti].

Extending and exasperating the concept of sport linked to very few individuals (2, in this case), will create a kind of emptiness in the room when they stop. Of course, new ones will be sought (Mbappé, Haaland), but the result may not necessarily be the same. France Football, with Gabriel Hanot, had created something beautiful and inspiring for the debate. Today that thing is gone. As much as the world of football always needs to modify, change and renew, some things should remain intact as time goes by.

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