Not quite done with the World Cup yet. Jeremy Robson lets fly at the decision-making process that led to Lionel Messi being chosen as player of the tournament ahead, he says, of far more deserving participants …
Like many keen observers of the closing stages of the World Cup I was intrigued to see who would win the Ballon D’Or as the player nominated as the best to appear in this year’s tournament.
When Argentina’s Messi walked up to the steps to receive the honour, my attention immediately shifted to those responsible for making the selection. Sepp Blatter himself has even said that he was “surprised”.
Diego Maradona, a former winner himself said that the decision was “unfair”. It’s rare that I can agree anything that Messrs Blatter and Maradona have to say, but there is a first time for everything.
This may be news to you, as indeed it has become news to me, but there is a panel of people who decide such things. The “Technical Study Group,” has been in existence since the 1966 World Cup.
Its purpose is to study football matches and inform Fifa about what they see, changes which occur in the game and so on.
You might be surprised, well even astonished actually to see that some of the more prominent football nations are not represented on this panel. Germany who have now won the World Cup on four occasions are not represented, neither are Brazil, who have won it more than anybody else nor Italy. There’s no English representative either.
You will be pleased to hear, however, that the panel does include such luminaries as Ricki Herbert, Abdel M Hussein, and Kwok Ka Ming. No panel of the great and the good would be complete without El Salvador’s Jaime Rodriguez of course. You can rest easy in your beds at night now knowing that the future of the world game is in such safe hands.
And here they all are:
Gérard HOULLIER (France) Needs no introduction for followers of the English game. Most Aston Villa fans were pleased to see the back of this particular character.
Raúl ARIAS (Mexico) 2 caps for Mexico against mighty Canada and Martinique. Coached Nexaxa for several years from the late 90s. On his return they were relegated.
Gabriel CALDERÓN (Argentina) Current manager of Real Betis. Appointed in January of this year. Won World Youth Cup with Argentina in 1979. Managed at a series of lacklustre clubs and 3rd world nations before his current post in Spain.
Ricki HERBERT (New Zealand) Former coach of the Kiwi national team. Highlight of playing career was 45 games for Wolves during the 1980s (now which division were they in then?)
Abdel M HUSSEIN (Sudan) Unsurprisingly I couldn’t find out anything about this individual
KWOK Ka Ming (Hong Kong) Retired from playing at the age of 30 from Hong Kong Rangers. Graduated from St Xavier’s High School where he played table tennis and basketball (according to his Wikipedia entry. No mention of football there.
Ioan LUPESCU (Romania) Over 70 caps for his country and a playing career which took him from his native land to play for Bayer Leverkusen where he played in the semi finals of the UEFA cup and later for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Ginés MELÉNDEZ SOTOS (Spain) Coached one game in the Spanish league for Albacete as caretaker manager, after retiring as a player at the age of 21. Coached U17 and U19 national side.
Tsuneyasu MIYAMOTO (Japan) Long and successful career with Gamba Osaka and the Japanese national team. Finished his career with a year at Red Bull Salzburg.
Sunday OLISEH (Nigeria) Played 63 times for his country is a career which saw him turn out for Ajax, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund amongst others. He was sacked by Boruissia Dortmund, after punching a team-mate while on loan at Bochum.
Mixu PAATELAINEN (Finland) Former Hibernian manager and player, whose career took him to Wolves and Bolton Wanderers. Finnish international forward.
Jaime RODR?GUEZ (El Salvador) A defender with 50 caps for his country. His playing career included spells at Leon, Bayer Uerdingen, Finland’s KPV and a couple of appearances for Yokohama Flugels. He had a short lived spell in club management and was appointed as assistant coach to the El Salvador national team in 2007.
Theodore WHITMORE (Jamaica) Played 70+ games for Hull City when they were in what is now League 2 before continuing his career with a short spell at Tranmere Rovers and then Livingston. Has has several spells as either interim or permanent manager of the Jamaican national side with mixed results.
I can understand why there’s a need to include the smaller nations in working groups etc in order to trickle down good ideas, innovative coaching concepts, tactical nous in order for the game to progress, but it would be fair to say that the calibre of some of these panel members is open to question.
Accepting that the likes of El Salvador and Hong Kong simply do not have the personnel with the pedigree of their counterparts from more established nations is an axiom in any debate on this subject, but why are there no Dutch representatives for example? How come there isn’t anyone from Germany? There must be 20,000 candidates from Germany better qualified and informed than anyone from the likes of Jamaica, Finland and El Salvador put together.
The average football fan has probably never even heard of the Technical Study Group. I must confess that I was one of them until I decided to investigate the process for choosing the Ballon d’Or winner.
This was a very public decision which has attracted a lot of criticism, and rightly so in my opinion. A lazy decision, and a very poor one which creates the impression that they could have all faxed in their nomination some time in around the end of May, assuming that Messi would be a safe choice.
They must not have watched the last World Cup either when he also flattered to deceive. The question is this: what other decisions are they making which impact of the way that the game is played, coached, and administered that we don’t know about. If there’s a single one of them, let alone a majority, who really thought that Messi was the best player in the World Cup then we really ought to be worried about what they think about everything else.