Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marta? Again? Really?: FIFA's Player of the Year Award is, when it comes to women, a joke.

Last month Marta was awarded the World Footballer of the Year trophy for the forth time. I have said it before: Marta is a great player.  But in ten years, only three women have been given this award (Mia Hamm got it twice, & Birgit Prinz three times).  Since 2001 (the year FIFA started awarding this trophy to female players), 9 men received the award with Ronaldinho winning it twice. I suspect Marta herself doesn't think she deserves to have won this honor four years in a row.

You can watch the ceremony's introduction of nominees here, as well as brief interviews with Cristiane and Marta. It's not translated, sadly.

Charmaine Hooper, a FIFA Committee member and one of Canada's greatest players, introduced the nominees. The Sith Lord of Soccer, Seth Blatter, stood by her side and handed the Sol/Santos player the award. I hoped she'd club him over the head with it. But she didn't.

Last year, I wrote that I suspected that the problem with this award is that FIFA's members - even female players - do not get enough real media exposure to their own game to really know their colleagues. (Votes are cast by coaches and captains of international teams.) The media gives so little time and attention to the women's game, it can only handle one "star" at a time.  So players like Nadine Angerer (Germany's goalkeeper, who played the 2007 World Cup without conceding a single goal - this includes at least one penalty save, if I remember correctly and had a great year this year) or Christiane (Marta's crucial and insanely gifted partner in crime) or Hope Solo or any number of other gifted players are ignored.

It's shameful and it seriously diminishes the value of this award - the people casting these votes need a real kick in the pants. I'm disgusted by the sports media, which has reported on Marta's four-year reign as if it were not a problem. Just goes to show you how little women's soccer they actually watch - and, perhaps, how every damned story about women's soccer has to have a smile slapped on it, like it is always good news. 

So far, I've only noticed one article that complains - The Final Third, a blog (of course), asks WTF?  They gripe "Marta plays like a beast, but she isn't like Ronaldinho is she?" I don't know about that - she is pretty amazing, especially when supported by a great team (as is the case for any attacking player). But let's say she is a female Ronaldinho. Even when at his best, he only won that award twice. So, yeah - WTF.  Marta should have just handed that thing to Cristiane.  Maybe she did. 

I'd love to know what other people think about this!

[A reader tipped me off to this interview with Shek Borkowski - he speaks in depth about the award, the ceremony, and FIFA's "lack of imagination" - it's a really informed discussion, and very worth listening too! He addresses these issues starting at about 6 minutes.]


  1. Have you listened to the recent SPA Women's Soccer podcast? Shek Borkowski gives detailed insight about how the lack of global press coverage significantly effects the women's game including for example Marta winning FIFA POY again.

  2. Thank you so much for the link! I had not heard this.

  3. Jennifer: Thanks for coming to SPA and leaving a comment. Jeff and I will continue to try and not only do the podcast, but we plan on integrating both his site (Equalizer) and general women's coverage into SPA. Hopefully, we will be covering UEFA Women's Champions League in depth ... but thanks for coming to SPA. I really appreciate it. -rf

  4. Well said. Most of the countries on the list that voted haven't played in a FIFA tourney...Euro, WC, etc. and as you said, only see what the media shows. Marta, Prinz and Hamm are all over YouTube. Smith, Wambach, Cristiane, Angerer, Grings (who I thought should have won it), are too, but not in as much quantity.

    Grings had an amazing year. Won Euro's with Germany, Won UEFA and Frauen-Bundesliga with Duisburg. She really should have won and I am baffled that she did not.

  5. So First of all I totally agree that this Award to Marta should have been given to someone Else! Yes She is à fabulous Player but She did Not Reserve it this Year! The votes have been made from the captains and the coaches of the other national Teams. On the official FIFA.COM Site you can See who has votes for whom! Most of the captains didnt have Marta As First Pick! What was surprisingly is that She only won and also Prinz only got 2nd cos of the coaches votes! WTF? They should Know it better! Marta and Prinz are Big names but besides Germany and the German FA and the USSoccer Even the other FAs are Not seeing the necessaty to Support their Women's national Teams and increased the Media and Public interest by given more Input to the Women's Section and Output via informations/ Updates etc to the Press and Public! If only two or Three Players are getting all the interest from the Associations and the Press, Women's Football or Soccer As my US-Friends say ;) will Not increase! Hopefully with the Next Season of the WPS, the upcoming U20 WorldCup in Germany and the Outlook and finally 2011 Coming WWC also in Germany we finally can take the step to the Next stage! Its about Time!
    Oh and I personally don't think that Marta did think she didnt deserve this Award! :)

  6. I am with you. The more I think about it the angrier it makes me... It is super messed up given that Brazil didn't play in 2009. On that alone, neither Marta nor Christiane should have been nominated - as a rebuke to the Brazilian football federation. Thank you for the rant!

  7. Great article about an overlooked (as usual) part of the beautiful game. In 2001, the first year the award was offered, many coahces voted for players who had already *retired* and not played a single international that year ... great retired players like Michelle Akers actually got votes, simply because the women's game got so little exposure, many coaches simply voted for names they knew. Sad.

  8. I'm sorry, who is better than Marta???? I understand your frustration, but Marta is by FAR the best fermale soccer player in the world. Doesn't matter if she plays 5 or 500 games, she is the best and the most impactful, so she gets the trophy. What am I missing here?


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