Since the inception of the Laureus Sports Awards in 2000, no footballer, not even the world’s best for the past decade in both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have managed to clinch its coveted “World Sportsman of the Year” award.
Ronaldo and Messi have been shortlisted five times, other players such as Ronaldo Nazario De Lima, Ronaldinho, Kaka, all has been nominated in their earlier years.
The 19 sportsmen who have won the award to date have all hailed from either tennis, golf, motor-sports or athletics.
This year, Novak Djokovic took home the honours while Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric both made the shortlist.
The Laureus Sports Awards Ceremony was first held in 2000, at Monte Carlo where the late Nelson Mandela was on hand to give a keynote address in which the iconic ex-South African president touched on the power of sports in enacting social change.
Since then, it has continued as an annual award ceremony honouring individuals and teams from the world of sports throughout the year.
While Federer and Usain Bolt are just two examples of athletes who have swept the “Sportsman of the Year” category multiple times, the remarkable influence and consistency that both Messi and Ronaldo have shown in Barcelona and Real Madrid colours respectively (during their peak years at that), have not been recognised on Laureus’ stage.
The fundamental reason for this lies in the format of the Laureus Awards itself. With a distinguished “Team of the Year” and “Sportsperson of the Year” categories, football teams that have reached the pinnacle of perfection in the sport by winning the World Cup have often been presented with the Laureus Sports Team Award the year after; such was the case with the Spain national football team in 2011, Germany in 2015 and most recently, France, this year.
Football clubs who have achieved remarkable feats in a single season have also been recognised at the Laureus Awards – Manchester United’s treble winning team in the 1998/1999 season, and Barcelona’s all conquering team of the 2010/2011 season.
With football teams already celebrated in a separate category, the panel of judges and distinguished members who are responsible for voting are less inclined to present a footballer as “Sportsperson of the Year” as the aim of the ceremony is to recognise remarkable achievements of athletes from a wide array of sporting domains.
Another reason is that football is predominantly a team sport, and although individual brilliance is often heralded in football, championships and titles are ultimately won with the help of the supporting cast.
There is simply no way for individuals to conquer football alone – just look at Messi and Ronaldo’s ironic lack of silverware with their respective national teams.
As such, athletes from individual sports such as tennis, golf and F1 have an undisputed edge in claiming of the award as any sporting glory attained in their field is directly tagged to individual capability and competence.
Although it is easy to accuse the judging panel of favouritism towards their own sports given the closed nature of voting on eventual winners of the Laureus awards, that is simply not the reason for footballers persistently falling short.
In fact, 11 of the 68 Laureus members who are ultimately responsible for deciding on the winner of “Sportsperson of the Year” hail from football, as footballers form up the largest majority of members from a single sport within the esteemed panel of judges.
A footballer may never be the Laureus Sportsperson of the Year, and perhaps, neither will any footballer in future. However, there is always the Ballon d’Or, and if we extrapolate its results – the best footballer in the world’s most popular sport, we may not even need external validation to see that the best footballer is indeed the world’s best sportsperson in his own right.
The only way to win a Laureus, is when they retire.
Legends of the field such as Pele, Franz Beckenbaur, Sir Bobby Charlton, Zinedine Zidane, have won the Lifetime Achievement Award and Johan Cruyff the Spirit of Sport award.
Give Messi and Ronaldo a couple more years then.Leave a comment