Sepp Blatter enjoys James Blunt. Photo by Marcello Casal Jr. (Wikimedia Commons)
I saw a documentary recently called Secret Space. Well, the makers call it a documentary. It’s an alarmingly rubbish, mash of random ideas with so little coherence or basis in reality that it looks like it was put together by an ant colony that managed to get hold of a camcorder on one of its sorties. It makes the case that we (well, NASA) have been at war with aliens for some time in the outer layers of our atmosphere, that there are some miles-long space serpents flying around that recharge themselves from our thunderstorms, and that this is all controlled (or at least understood) by the Masons. At first it says we didn't reach the moon at all, then it says we did – but for the glory of Lucifer.
There are people who believe this stuff.
He didn't use the words, but Real Madrid coach José Mourinho is definitely a conspiracy theory man. You know the kind, they collar you in bars sometimes, muttering darkly about everybody being out to get them, and less and less people will listen the more they cry wolf. José didn't go to the presentation of the world player of the year, the famous Ballon D'or, this week. He already knew that he didn't stand a chance, and neither did his star player Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a done deal as far as they were concerned, and it would have been far too long of an evening watching their nemeses', Barcelona's Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi getting pats on the back all night.
I wouldn't have gone for different reasons. One being James Blunt, who (it was deemed by the powers that be) was exactly the man who could sum up the speed, ingenuity and flair of Messi's game – the one man that embodied the precise beauty of Barca's tiki taka approach to football. On reading the live reports of the award ceremony the world joined in with an "ohforfuckssakenotfuckingJamesBlunt”). Although this universal outpouring of cynical hatred at a posh knob with an acoustic guitar brought us together in a way that few things ever could, it was our mistake for thinking that the football family (copyright FIFA) had any taste whatsoever in the first place.
Mourinho didn't get to vote. It is left up to the captains of the national teams, the national coaches and a delegated member of the press from each country. Messi got to vote as Argentina's captain. Needless to say he didn't vote for Ronaldo, choosing his club-mates Iniesta and Xavi, and his international colleague, Sergio Aguero (who also, until the start of this season, played for Real's enemies Atlético Madrid).
Ronaldo's coach for Portugal, Paulo Bento, did, of course, vote for the young man with the really fat neck. He was also in a minority by deciding that Messi deserved a vote, but only behind his countryman, Manchester United's (good, but not in the same class as Messi) Nani.
See, there are conspiracies everywhere you look. Spanish Journalist Paco Aguilar must have come from one of the papers on the other side of the huge divide in Spain (they are, almost exclusively either Real or Barca). He voted for Messi, then Xavi.
It is difficult sometimes for people to get things right. Last year Bert van Marwijk managed to get his first pick disallowed because he couldn't write his captain, Wesley Schneider's, name legibly enough. This year Northern Ireland's captain Aaron Hughes didn't manage to vote for second or third. No reason was given.
Jogi Löw, out of loyalty to Nivea Creme no doubt, didn't vote for the serial-endorser Ronaldo, but Germany's captain Philip Lahm did. Fortunately Pelé wasn't allowed to vote but he still thinks that everybody is wrong, and that the winner of the Ferenc Puskas award for best goal of the year, Neymar is the best anyway. It doesn't matter. Nobody listens to Pelé any more.
So maybe Mourinho was right not to bother. It was certainly a done deal anyway and the process is flawed to a certain extent. However, it is hard to see how it could be made fairer. Lionel Messi is clearly the best player in the world, and deserves his third Ballon D'or. Then again maybe it was a fix up. Maybe Mourinho knew something we didn't. As Kurt Cobain said, "Just because your paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't after you.”