Marta: World Player of the Year, But Not Perfect


So Messi won the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Award, and Marta won the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Award, and no-one was surprised. But should we have been? There’s enough out there about Messi, so let’s look at Marta and the women’s award for a moment.

Shek Borkowski, former Indiana FC head coach and current head coach of WFC Zvezda-2005 in Russia, criticised FIFA’s shortlist a couple of weeks ago, writing:

The list includes Cristiane (Brazil), Inka Grings (Germany), Marta (Brazil), Birgit Prinz (Germany), and Kelly Smith (England). One could put Marta on the list for sentimental reasons or because Marta is an exciting player but the fact that Cristiane had a mediocre season with her club and played no games with Brazil speaks for itself. Prinz won the Euros but was at best average domestically. Kelly Smith is one of the greatest women’s players ever, but time and injuries have diminished her influence on the game. She still was one of England’s key players during their successful Euro run but her club form was hampered by injuries.

A little harsh, perhaps, but Shek is sure on who the best women’s player of 2009 was, and it’s hard to disagree: “the Euro champion and top scorer, and the UEFA Champions League winner Inka Grings should win the award.”

Shek will be perhaps unsurprised, but undoubtedly disappointed, that Grings finished last in the voting, behind Cristiane. Her fellow German forward Birgit Prinz, a three-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, finished second, even though her Frankfurt team did not win anything this year, and Prinz finished behind Grings in Bundesliga scoring, as she also did in the UEFA Women’s European Championship, where Grings was the top scorer.

It sure looks like the voters, the captains and coaches of national teams, sent in their ballots based on past reputation rather than present performance.

Shek also mentions three other strong candidates who could have been on the shortlist, adding a little more fodder to the debate on the value of FIFA’s award:

Christie Rampone is the Franco Baresi of women’s football. She led her club to WPS title and anyone doubting her experience, leadership and her importance to her national team and her club is not following the game.

Linda Bresonik. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Bresonik. For me she is a complete player who can play in any position and and is a winner everywhere she goes. Like Grings, Bresonik is another Euro and the UEFA Women’s Champions League winner.

Genoveva Anonman, the Equatorial Guinea captain, who in 2008 single-handed won the African title for her country, saved FF USV Jena from relegation and very simply is the best African player at the moment.

FIFA’s news release on the award itself is also a little sloppy, as it states that “Marta announced her signature with Los Angeles Sol after last year’s Gala and her first season proved a perfect start. Her Southern California side won the title and she laid claim to both the league’s top player award as well as scooping the top-scorer honours. After the regular season in the US, she went out on loan to Santos in her native Brazil.”

Er, the Los Angeles Sol may have won the regular season, but they did not win the WPS championship, the Sol losing to Christie Rampone’s Sky Blue FC in the playoff final (Rampone, by the way, voted for Marta with her vote in the FIFA awards).

That aside, Marta was undoubtedly outstanding for LA and Santos, and I’m not sure there will be too many arguments about her receiving the award. However, the voters missed an opportunity to reward a different outstanding performer in world soccer by jilting Grings. Marta winning the title for the fourth time in a row is a great achievement for her, but also means an even more deserving performer from 2009 misses out.

I vote we just go with the Shek award in future.

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