Soccer’s Ballon d’Or will not be awarded this year amid coronavirus crisis
Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d’Or has been given out every year since Stanley Matthews won the first one in 1956. Lionel Messi has won it a record six times — one more than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
The magazine started giving out a women’s award in 2018; that has also been put on hold.
“It’s such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one,” France Football‘s editor, Pascal Ferre, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
“It isn’t a decision we took lightly, but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner, and what really worried us is that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded.”
Because the game’s rules have been modified during the pandemic, the award itself was affected.
Pro sports leagues are jumping the line to get COVID-19 tests back within hours.
“The season started with certain rules and ended with other rules. In January and February, soccer was played in front of full stands. Then from May and June it was with empty stands,” Ferre said. “Then we had the five substitutes rule and not three. Then other changes happened in terms of the competitions, notably the final eight [eight-team knockout format] for the Champions League when it had started with home and away legs.”
With the European Championship and the Copa America postponed this year, the Champions League would have massively weighed on the award’s outcome but with a format inadvertently providing a shortcut for an eventual victor.
“The Ballon d’Or would have been decided over just three games: quarterfinal, semifinal, final,” Ferre said. “There were loads of changes [to soccer’s rules] which are totally legitimate and which we don’t contest given the worldwide health crisis, but we couldn’t consider this as a typical year. Exceptional circumstances led to an exceptional decision.”
The Kopa Trophy for the best player under 21 and the Lev Yashin award for best goalkeeper have also been canceled this year, Ferre said.
If the virus affects next season the same way, however, the Ballon d’Or will be awarded.
“It would be less of a problem in terms of fairness, because this time around we’ve had two parts to the season: normal and not normal,” Ferre said. “Imagine that in 2021 all matches are played behind closed doors [without fans] and with five subs. We would adapt, because it would be comparable.”
To fill this year’s gap, the magazine created another trophy: the France Football Dream Team.
The magazine’s jury of 180 will elect history’s best team from a shortlist of five players in each position. The star-studded lineup will be known sometime in autumn.
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