In an atypical year like the one which we live, and many competitions were suspended for more than a quarter, FIFA maintained its tone of “the show must go on” and decided to present its “The Best” awards. The gala was held virtually, with a central set without an audience.
England’s Lucy Bronze and the Polish Robert Lewandowski were voted best player and player of the year 2020. They also delivered best men’s soccer coach (Jurgen Klopp) and women’s (Sarina Wiegman), best goalkeeper (Manuel Neuer) and best goalkeeper (Sarah Bouhaddi ), while the Puskas for the best goal went to Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son, after a beautiful run against Burnley. It was all a celebration of football.
Questions Still Arise…
There is always a strange taste in the mouth when these awards are handed out. Unlike the award for the top scorer or the least beaten goalkeeper in a tournament, the best footballer, the best coach, the best goal is a matter of tastes and votes in which the controversy does not stop. This is good for FIFA, which takes the press’s front pages for a few days, and journalists can debate the results. It is a fun event just like using betting tips to win bets.
Precisely for this reason, it is not necessary to put too many kilos on the award. Like the Ballon d’Or, an award that had the FIFA seal for less than a decade but has always belonged to France Football magazine, The Best is a recognition that allows you to see the opinion of a recognized public on the subject (players, coaches, and journalists). It is not the last word in football. By this, I am not saying that the winners lack the merits to receive the title of the best, but their throne can be put to the test without any problem.
It is essential to analyze this, above all, because none of the awards clearly explain the criteria for choosing the best. What does it mean to be the best footballer for FIFA? Why do offensive players almost always win it? Why are strikers competing for another prize?
Due to the way the prizes are distributed, the answers to these questions can generate different implicit answers in the audience’s ordinary sense. That should not be so. There are enough arguments to consider Lewandowski as the best center forward of the year. Still, without unified criteria, it is impossible to know if he is better or worse than his teammate Thiago Alcántara or that rival Kylian Mbappé.
And of course, explaining criteria is not a shield if then the captains and coaches of each team and a journalist from each country vote in their free will. However, they would help viewers and voters know the focus of the award. Thus, we would at least understand what FIFA means when it speaks of the best in some aspect of the game.
But other than that, the voting system is unclear. People asked yesterday why the winners for best goalkeeper and defenders were not in the award for the best eleven. In the male eleven appeared Allison and not Neuer, while in the female was Christiane Endler instead of Bouhaddi. The answer is not complicated: the award for the best goalkeeper and the best goalkeeper have different voting systems from the one for the best starting eleven. Although it is a controversial decision, the real problem is not clarifying each award and choosing the winner.
It’s fun to see these kinds of awards and debate with colleagues and close people around them. I will not be the one to ruin a celebration of good football. However, The Best gala would benefit if its awards were voted based on a definition or criteria. I consider Klopp a better coach than Hans-Dieter Flick, but he picked up a team at a bad time and won everything in 2020. What matters more there? I do not know.