Sports Features of Thursday, 10 January 2013
Source: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina
Orangeburg, South Carolina
8th January, 2013
On Monday, 7TH January, 2013, in Zurich, the elite of soccer gathered to honor the achievements of the past year.
There were selections for the best coaches, the best goal and other awards.
As expected, Lionel Messi won, once again the “Ballon d’OR”. It was the fourth year in a roll that the Argentine picked up the award. Maybe, this time he deserved it. I believe that in 2010, after the World Cup, Iniesta deserved it. It was hard to explain how, in the year of a World Cup, a player who had a less than stellar World Cup could emerge as the most outstanding player in the World for that particular year. In addition to being a key part of Barcelona’s success, Iniesta had been a star in Spain’s conquest of the world in 2010 in South Africa. Therefore, he deserved the “Ballon d’OR”. Indeed, the recognition of national team performances which got Vicente del Bosque the “COACH OF THE YEAR” award this year should have won Iniesta the “Ballon d’OR” in one of the last three years. If coaching a national team can make one coach of the year, then one’s performance for the national team ought to be central to winning the “Ballon d’OR”.
To return to this year’s awards though, the most surprising event was the unveiling of the world’s best eleven. They were Iker Cassilas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Daniel Alves, Marcello, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao. All eleven play in the Spanish League—La Liga. How can only one league have the top players in all positions? Even though La Liga is probably the best league, that is a bit much.
The selections were made by the 50 thousand professional players. The selection is a good argument for leaving selection in the hands of coaches instead of players. While the idea of players picking their peers sounds like a good idea, maybe they are too busy playing to watch and/or follow other players. They obviously did not notice quite a few things. First, while Cassilas deserved to be in goal, both Daniel Alves and Marcello struggled a bit during the year in question and their inclusion is debatable. It can be argued that Thiago Silva, another Brazilian with Paris St. Germaine and Ashley Cole, of England and Chelsea had better years. In particular, in the light of Chelsea’s amazing ran to the UEFA Champions’ league title anchored by heroic defending, at least one of their defenders, particularly Ashley Cole deserved to be in the squad. In the midfield, midfield maestro Pirlo, due his role in Juventus and the Italian national team, should have pipped out one of the Spannish duo of Xabi or Xavi, easily on form and as a means of giving the team a truly global feel.
Next, amongst the forwards, while there is no question that Ronaldo and Messi belonged in the squad, Falcao’s choice is debatable. Given his crucial goals in both Chelsea’s Champion’s league ran as well as the Ivory Coast’s journey to the Cup of Nation’s final in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Didier Drogba deserved that spot a little more than Falcao. His choice would, in addition to being right, have brought a little more balance to the line-up. The Global eleven brings into stark relief, not just the European tilt of global soccer but it’s overarching Spanish tingue.
Balance must be restored to the global game. A few weeks ago, FIFA President Seth Blatter said that to be the best player in the world, Brazilian sensation Neymar needs to move to Europe. That was unfortunate. It should be possible for a player to play in South America or Africa and still be the best player in the World. After all, Pele never played in Europe and South American teams have been winning the World Cup—both club and national quite regularly. FIFA should promote football all over the world and bring attention to it everywhere—not just in Europe. The triumph of Brazilian Champions Corinthians in the World club championship in Japan should remind us that good soccer is played outside of Europe too.
Currently, it is quite difficult to watch matches in the COPA LIBERTADORES or AFRICAN CLUBS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE as easily as the UEFA Champions League and that is a shame. While we should appreciate the quality of soccer in Europe, we must encourage other continents whose talents and quality are being drained by European resources.
Let us all support the global development of the beautiful game.