FIFA’s prestigious The Best awards have been struck by a vote-rigging storm amid claims indicating the ballot was rigged.
Lionel Messi walked away with the best men’s player accolade at the glitzy ceremony in Milan on Monday, pipping Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk to the award.
Given Van Dijk’s remarkable season at Liverpool, where he led the club to their sixth Champions League title, and Ronaldo’s excellent campaign at Juventus – Messi’s winning award was met with a degree of surprise.
And now the Barcelona superstar’s claim to the honour has been thrown into serious doubt following questions over the legitimacy of the voting.
The Egyptian football association, Sudan’s coach Zdravko Logarusic, and Nicaragua’s captain Juan Barrera have raised concerns over the authenticity of the ballots – citing uncounted or misallocated votes.
Egypt’s association has called on FIFA to explain why the votes of its national coach Shawki Ghareeb and captain Ahmed were not taken into account.
Ghareeb and El-Mohammadi are not mentioned in FIFA’s publication of official votes.
The Egyptian Football Federation claim they officially sent Egypt’s vote to FIFA on August 15, four days before the deadline.
Their statement ‘asks FIFA why the Egyptian vote was not accepted’ and goes on to confirm the EFA has opened an ‘investigation’ into the circumstances of this failure.
Additionally, Sudan’s coach Lugarisic and Nicaragua’s Juan Barrera took to social media to indicate that the votes published by FIFA, in their names, did not reflect their actual choices.
Lugarisic says his first choice was Egypt’s Mohamed Salah but FIFA’s voting document showed Messi as his first selection.
Barrera is also adamant that he did not vote for Messi, as claimed by FIFA.
‘I did not vote for Messi. I was surprised to be on the list of captains who voted for Messi and there is no explanation how it appeared there,’ Barrera is reported to have said.
FIFA determines the best players based on the votes of national team coaches, captains as well as a journalist from each country.
The votes are then made public for transparency. However, the voting system has been called into serious doubt following the alleged discrepancies.