This is how democracy works. You give the right to vote to a large swath of people of varying ages, expertise levels, and motivations, add up their collective responses, and hope to come out with a good result. Today’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony, where Lionel Messi won the thing for the fifth time over challengers Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, was a good example of this. Lots of votes that totaled up to a just result, even if many were cast with less-than-noble intentions.
Seeing as the award is voted on by three members of every FIFA member nation—the captain and head coach of each senior national team, and a journalist from every nation—you end up with a pretty good number of screwy ballots that feature shameless homerism, thinly veiled politicking, and what can only be described as flat-out ineptitude.
Since FIFA publishes every Ballon d’Or voter’s ballot, we can enjoy first hand these often-baffling choices, and try to ascertain what the thinking behind the selections were. Here are a few notes from this year’s big ballot release, which you can find in full here.
- First, the finalists themselves, each of whom captain their international team. Messi voted for, in order, Luis Suárez, Neymar, and Andrés Iniesta. Neymar went Messi, Suárez, Ivan Rakitić. Ronaldo voted Karim Benzema, James Rodríguez, Gareth Bale. Interpret those choices as you will.
- In fact, every Barcelona and Real Madrid player that also captains his international team submitted a ballot only featuring teammates. Good ego appeasement, right there.
- A prime example of homerism: Vincent Kompany’s ballot, which read: Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Messi. Surprisingly, though, De Bruyne did receive nine votes in total, including two first-place ones: one from Myanmar’s German manager (and possible Wolfsburg fan?) Gerd Zeise and the other from Togo manager and Belgian compatriot Tom Saintfiet.
- More homerism: Peru’s captain, Claudio Pizarro, voted Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos. At club level, Pizarro is in his first season at Werder Bremen after spending three years with Bayern Munich.
- More homerism: Yaya Touré received 18 votes, 14 of which came from voters representing African nations.
- Lest you think this is all homerism, Guinea captain Florentin Pogba did not vote for his brother, Paul.
- You can sort of infer a thread of fandom in some ballots. For instance, of Toni Kroos’s nine votes, seven came on ballots he shared with either a former Bayern teammate or a non-Ronaldo Real Madrid one. Also, is Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio (Müller, Neuer, Arturo Vidal) a Bayern fan?
- The most head-scratching name to get any first-place votes was Barcelona defender/Argentina defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano. Of his 11 overall votes, five of them listed him first, two coming from the captain and the manager of Guatemala.
- The most inexplicable ballot might be Vanuatu captain Masauvakalo Fenedy, who selected Paul Pogba, Thomas Müller, and Alexis Sánchez. All three of these guys show up in other ballots, so, okay. But together, and in that order?
- Stephane Mbia probably claims second prize, with his Touré, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Neuer ballot.
It’s digging around in the whole spreadsheet is a good time, so do that if you want. This is mostly just fun, seeing the various voting trends, but should also wean you off the idea that the Ballon d’Or is some revered award voted on with extreme care by only the most serious of people. It’s just some dudes with opinions, some of which are calculated, some honest, and some just bad.
Photo via Getty