On the 20th of June 2020, an official statement was released by France Football, which stated that the 2020 Ballon d’Or ceremony had been cancelled, and as such, the award would not be granted for the 2019/2020 season. France Football stated that this was due to the “exceptional circumstances” the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the season. This is the first time since 1956 that Ballon d’Or will not be awarded to the most outstanding footballer in Europe. According to its representative, Pascal Ferre, “There will be no edition 2020, because it turns out, after thoughtful consideration, that all the conditions are not met. We believe that such a singular year cannot – and should not – be treated as an ordinary one.”
Football lovers and pundits all over the world have given mixed reactions to this news, with many believing that the decision is ridiculous. There is a presumption that a major reason behind the suspension of the award, could be that the Ballon d’Or is headquartered in France, and the fact that the Ligue 1 2019/2020 season was prematurely called off. This reasoning is problematic for a few reasons.
Firstly, the Ballon d’Or is awarded to the best player in Europe, regardless of whether or not they are French or play in the French league. Thus Ligue 1’s cancellation notwithstanding, the Ballon d’Or could be awarded to deserving players from other leagues that eventually restarted. Secondly, asides from other major leagues restarting, UEFA announced long before this period that the Champions League and the Europa League would be restarted, and even further released its amended fixtures for August. Coincidentally, some French clubs participated as Lyon made it to the semi-finals while PSG made it to the final. The influence of the Champions League cannot be overemphasized, as it is the defacto tiebreaker most of the time when different deserving players achieve great feats in their respective leagues. Therefore if the Champions league (and Europa) would still be played, and leagues would eventually be completed, it would affect the prestige of the award to be overlooked this year despite all the efforts.
One player whose efforts this season couldn’t go unnoticed and will feel most aggrieved by the cancellation is Robert Lewandowski. The Polish goal-machine, who was nicknamed “Lewangoalski” by teammate Thomas Mueller in a recent interview, has found the net 55 times and assisted 10 times in just 47 appearances in all competitions (someone needs to check if there is actual blood in his veins). Although unseated by Ciro Immobile for the European golden boot, who scored his 35th goal on the last Serie A gameweek as opposed to Lewandowski’s 34 in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski has had an unreal season, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and the Champions League this season, completing an epic treble and joining Barcelona as the only team to have done the treble twice. There has never been a more dominant Champions league team to ever win the trophy than this current Bayern side, who won all 11 games (no draws, no losses) and scored a total of 45 goals throughout this campaign (the next best was PSG with 27 goals). Of the 45 goals, 15 were scored by Lewandowski, who was this season’s Champions League top scorer, and set a record for the third highest goal scorer in a single Champions League campaign (2 goals shy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 goals). He is also the Bundesliga Player of the year and golden boot winner, with Champions League player of the season likely in sight.
While a footballer’s ability should not be judged or streamlined to individual awards and accolades, what has happened to Lewandowski could be described as daylight robbery. Lewandowski has never had a clearer year to clinch this elite award for himself. For over a decade, we have been in the “Messi-Ronaldo era” which has always been a two legged race for the Ballon d’Or. Messi has won it a record 6 times while Ronaldo won it 5 times, with only Modric breaking this chain when winning it in 2018 (controversial). Through these years, one of the only players to maintain Messi and Ronaldo’s goal scoring level has been Lewandowski, scoring 40+ goals every season since 2015. He has helped Bayern through the years exercise their dominance in the German Bundesliga, and also sojourn in Europe, coming very close to the Champions League final in 2018 where they bowed out to Real Madrid after an amazing season, and won it in grand style this season. With Messi’s Barcelona going trophyless and Ronaldo’s Juventus struggling for form despite winning the Scudetto, the European football this season has no more deserving player than Robert Lewandowski, who has won every single title competed for this season. Sadly this will not be happening and he will be looking to repeat this feat in the 2020/2021 season, to have another chance at football’s most prized individual award, unless the decision to cancel the award is rescinded. Luckily for him, FIFA has made no such announcement on cancelling its annual “The Best” award, so maybe there may yet be cherry on top of Lewandowski’s season after all.
By: Dominic Alonge
Click the link below to help protest the 2020 Ballon d’Or’s cancellation: