FIFA have been caught in a vote-rigging storm as football’s governing body fought claims the ballot for their prestigious ‘The Best’ awards was manipulated. 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 and Ronaldo’s excellent campaign at Juventus – Messi winning the award was met with a degree of surprise.
Lionel Messi received The Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award in Milan on Monday night, the Barcelona forward beat Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to the award at the ceremony and Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not attend the awards, also missed out on the honour. FIFA determines the best players based on the votes of national team coaches, captains as well as a journalist from each country.
But Messi’s claim to the honour has been thrown into doubt following after Egyptian football association and Nicaragua’s captain Juan Barrera raised concerns over the authenticity of the ballots – citing uncounted or misallocated votes. Egypt’s association called on FIFA to explain why the votes of coach Shawki Ghareeb and captain Ahmed Elmohamady were not taken into account.
Ghareeb and Elmohamady – who both opted for Mohamed Salah as their top choice – are not mentioned in FIFA’s publication of official votes that was published after the award ceremony. The Egyptian FA claim they officially sent their votes to FIFA on August 15, four days before the deadline. On Thursday, the governing body provided a bizarre explanation as to why the Egyptian’s votes weren’t included – claiming the signatures on the voting forms were in capital letters and thus invalid.
FIFA also cite the Egyptian’s voting forms were not signed by the federations’s general secretary which is mandatory. Nicaragua’s captain Juan Barrera has raised concerns over the authenticity of the ballots, Sudan’s coach Zdravko Logarusic took to social media to say his vote was not reflected by FIFA from there, the Egyptian FA was contacted by FIFA requesting confirmations from their captain and coach.
According to the FIFA voting office, which is monitored by independent observer PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Egyptian FA received two reminders to submit the properly signed voting forms by August 19. FIFA insists the Egyptian FA did not respond until August 21 and therefore, the votes from the Egyptian FA could not be counted. The governing body were also keen to stress that the Egyptian FA was in turmoil in July and August – by which point voting for ‘The Best’ awards was already open – after its leadership resigned due to the national team’s early exit at the African Cup of Nations.
World football’s governing body also responded to Nicaragua skipper Barrera’s claims he didn’t vote for Messi. Barrera insisted on social media that he did not register any votes for the awards – despite the official publication of votes having him selected Messi, Sadio Mane and Ronaldo in that order. His club Real Esteli have confirmed their player’s comments.
Lugarisic says his first choice was Mohamed Salah but FIFA’s records said he voted for Messi, there were similar claims relating to Sudan boss Zdravko Logarusic after an image of what appeared to be an official voting slip in which he voted for Salah, Mane and Kylian Mbappe emerged despite FIFA claiming he actually selected Messi, Van Dijk and Mane. There are comments attributed to Logarusic where he is alleged to have claimed the votes cast in his name do not reflect his choices, though the authenticity of the image and quote have been questioned.
But a FIFA spokesman insists the votes from Barerra and Logarusic correctly correspond with their official voting document. To strengthen FIFA’s insistence that Barrera did in-fact vote, a document purportedly signed by the player emerged yesterday. The document corresponds with FIFA’s official confirmation of votes.
‘We have checked the voting documents submitted by the Nicaraguan and Sudanese FAs and all these documents are signed and confirmed with the official stamp of the Nicaraguan and Sudanese FAs,’ the spokesman said.
‘Having compared with the vote sheets submitted by the FAs and the ones we have published we confirm that we have the right votes signed by the player/coach.
‘We are asking the Nicaraguan and the Sudanese FAs to inquire on this matter.’