Football has an immeasurable popularity, but less prestige in certain quarters of society than it deserves. It was the first sport en mass, the first to go professional, and that made some look upon it with disdain for so many years, with the amateur concept being valued as something superior. Today all sports are entrapped by money, but the momentum remains. Messi, generally recognised as the greatest footballer of this era, has no Laureus. Neither does his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo. Laureus awards go to the best of tennis, athletics, golf, Formula 1 ... Sports with a better ring to them.
Beautiful 'Mother Courage'
This has its good side. FIFA have been striving to improve the image of the sport and are doing so conscientiously. We have already seen for years in their corporate promotions magnificent calls for fair play, on the fight against racism, the integration of women... Monday's gala reinforced that. The most emotional moment of the night came with the fan award, the Brazilian ‘Mother Courage’, Silvia Grecco, who narrates live Palmeiras matches to her blind son, Nickollas. A brave and intelligent woman, whose speech lifted the audience from their seats, many moved to tears. A beautiful moment that contributed to extol football's virtues.
FIFA's loudspeaker for good
Bielsa's wonderful gesture was also rewarded, when he ordered his Leeds players to allow Aston Villa to run forward and score a goal after his own side had scored with an opponent hurt on the ground. That goal set Villa on their path to return to the Premier League in spite of Leeds. And then, this 2019 gala was concluded by the main women's prize, not the men's. FIFA are sending positive messages, using their powerful loudspeaker for good. Of course that organisation is far from a choir of angels, as we have seen through serious cases of corruption within, something too common in offices of power everywhere. But they are issuing uplifting messages that are worth recognition.