Ballon d’Or looms, for better or worse

Jeff Kassouf January 6, 2013 14

Alex Morgan (13) and Abby Wambach are each finalists for the 2012 Ballon d’Or. (Copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

We won’t soon forget Monday’s announcement of the Ballon d’Or winners as FIFA World Player of the Year, for better or worse.

The men’s finalists are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, but the drama we are focused on lies on the women’s side. Americans Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are finalists alongside five-time winner Marta of Brazil. If Morgan or Wambach win, it will be a historic first. If Marta wins, it will be an infamous coup.

Marta is the most technical women’s player in the world — a player unlike the women’s game has ever seen. Her five-straight Ballon d’Or titles from 2006-2010 speak to that (Japan’s Homare Sawa breaking that streak last year, for her 2011 season), but Marta’s 2012 campaign was unremarkable and mostly dormant for the typically less than active Brazil. Marta, despite all her greatness, has no business being a finalist for the award this year.

As Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl notes, however, she could still win due to the uninformed nature of so many voters (each country has a national team coach, a national team captain and a journalist vote).

“I’d love to be wrong here, but I suspect that the two U.S. players will split votes while clueless voters (the national team coach and captain along with one journalist from each FIFA country) opt for Marta based on reputation,” Wahl writes.

He could just be right, and it would be an absolute travesty for the women’s game which has a habit of taking one step forward and two steps backward.

I’ve said all along that this should be a toss-up between Wambach and Morgan, who can thank each other for their respective incredible years. I give my unofficial vote to Morgan for adding a playmaker role to her threat as a scorer, as well as stepping up in the biggest of moments in the Olympic semifinal 4-3 extra time win over Canada, in which Morgan’s 123rd minute goals was the difference (and the latest-ever goal in a FIFA competition).

Keep tabs on the Ballon d’Or and watch the livestream of the FIFA Gala here. The Gala itself, with the actual announcements of winners, starts at 12:30 p.m. ET.

For what it’s worth, each player says they would vote for the other:

  • Vincent Carveth

    If life was fair it’d be Sinclair on that list.

    • Steglitz49

      I suspect that Sinclair’s loss of self-control after the SF may have made many reluctant to vote for her.

      The lists of how they voted are released after the awards have been made.

      • Vincent Carveth

        I hadn’t thought of that. That makes some sense. Are voters explicitly directed to take or not take off-the-field conduct into account?

        • Steglitz49

          I don’t know.

          A certain tennis player on winning his first Wimbledon was not elected a member of the All England Club as is customary. This was the club’s way of showing their displeasure with his conduct. As the years went by, he was taken to heart by the Wimbledon crowd. No doubt it helped that he played not just doubles but also mixed doubles in an age when men already concentrated on the singles game. Also tennis made changes, including technological innovations, which dealt with some of the issues that had irked him. Most important, he did not claim intentional bias, only incompetence. “You can’t be serious!” echoes in the corridors of sports.

  • Kernel Thai

    1. Yep, Sinclair, Morgan and Wambach should be on the list. I would still pick Morgan but I coud live with either Wambach or Sinclair.
    2. John Herdman not only should have been a finalist, he should have won.
    3. Grant Wahl should know about clueless from personal experience. Apparently he didnt have Morgan in his top three. Top three! There has to be a vacant wall in some medieval village this guy should be sitting on.

    • Steglitz49

      The way people voted is revealed after the award. The lists will make interesting reading.

      The fact that the French coach, Bini, is one of the top 3 among the coaches is truly bizarre. France finished 4th in the Olympics as they did in the WC last year by losing matches they should have won. Indeed, why not Herdman?

      That Marta has many votes is not so odd. Brazil is still a strong brand name in soccer. Brazil’s group matches were better attended than the Canada-USA semifinal, in spite of being played in a part of the UK where rugby is king while the SF was played at Old Trafford. Marta played for a club team that won its league by defeating the favorite in the very last match of the season (a draw would not have been enough).

      • Kernel Thai

        The vote was over before Tyreso played Malmo. They should at least wait until the club season is over to vote.

        • Steglitz49

          The vote was not totally before the match. Tyresö played Malmö on 3rd Nov. The list of 10 ladies nominated was announced on 26th Oct, a few days before the match, but the 3 top persons were revealed on 29th Nov, more than 3 weeks after the match.

  • Steglitz49

    The comment that “Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl notes … the uninformed nature of so many voters (each country has a national team coach, a national team captain and a journalist vote).” seems like the kettle calling the pot black, seeing that SI hardly covers women’s soccer.

    Are not national team coaches and captains likely to be reasonably well informed? As for the journalists, does anyone know how they are selected?

    A number of outstanding male players never got this award.

    • randomhookup

      Especially on the women’s side, the coach (and I suppose the captain) aren’t always pulled into the scene full-time. They might have local teams to deal with or may have another full-time job Angola & Kyrgyzstan have the same votes as Sweden and Canada, even though they don’t see each other in tournaments.

  • luke

    THINK Alex deserves it, WANT Abby to win it. :-)

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  • Kernel Thai

    At least they dodged the Marta bullet…congratz to Abby

  • Laurie

    big Abby fan but I felt that Sinclair should have been up there too