The Warm-Up: Messi and Rapinoe win the Ballons d’Or for assorted reasons
Sure, it might not be for individual excellence this season alone, but only the churlish would argue these two don't deserve it
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Messi and Rapinoe win the Ballons d’Or
It’s probably quite silly to say that individual awards in football are pointless: that might be the case to you and I, those unlikely to actually win any of these awards, observing from afar on a team game where single performances are important but ultimately subservient to the wider scheme of things.
Particularly when those who receive them seem to appreciate them very much, and win them because they offer something else other than occasional on-pitch excellence. In Leo Messi’s case, that something else is not just consistent excellence but consistent genius, the man who has been the best in the world for the better part of a decade and could go on for a good few years yet.
And in Megan Rapinoe’s case, an award like this is not just reward for her brilliance at the World Cup in the summer, but for using her platform to at least try to further some progressive causes. The argument that she only really contributed world class performances in the summer is a perfectly reasonable one, given that she scored zero goals in the last WMLS season for Seattle Reign. But this award has always been very heavily slanted towards performances at major tournaments, so that can hardly be a surprise.
As for Messi, that’s his sixth of these baubles, which is very slightly confused by the switching of the Ballon d’Or back and forth from FIFA’s jurisdiction, but that won’t matter when he lines up that double hat-trick of shiny spheres up at home. And even better, somewhere in northern Italy, a bronzed man doing his 2,000th sit-up of the day is absolutely fuming, something we can all get behind and enjoy.
West Ham offer entirely inadequate response to homophobia
As anyone who attends Chelsea games even semi-regularly will know, they are routinely subjected to homophobic chants from opposition fans. You’ll know the one we’re talking about, so there’s no real need to repeat it here. But during their defeat to West Ham at the weekend, the chant reached new heights of offensiveness, sung so loud and so often that it could not be ignored by the authorities.
And thankfully, it hasn’t: the Metropolitan Police are investigating the chant after several complaints were made, although alas we’re not entirely sure what they can do about it, unless individuals can be picked out and made an example of.
West Ham can certainly investigate too, but you don’t hold much hope of them doing much about this issue going by the statement they released in response to the weekend’s chanting:
" West Ham United in no way condones any behaviour that falls short of the highest standards which the club sets when it comes to equality. At London Stadium against Arsenal on Monday night we will be celebrating and demonstrating the great work the club does to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for ALL supporters, including our LGBT+ fanbase, as part of our ongoing and unwavering support for the Rainbow Laces campaign."
Frankly they might as well have just said nothing. ‘In no way condones’? Good lord. It does no good to say ‘we do not agree’ – you have to expressly condemn it, promise to investigate and announce you’ll ban for life anyone found engaging in a hate crime. Because that’s what this is.
It should be noted that the statement doesn’t appear on West Ham’s Twitter feed or even their website, when a strong message could have been sent to anyone even thinking about engaging in homophobia at football again. Do better, everyone.
Aleksander Cefarin speaks on racism
It is of course easy and probably justified to be cynical about the seriousness of the football authorities about fighting racism. We only have decades of evidence to support that cynicism.
Aleksander Cefarin said:
"I don’t blame the players for what they say. I understand that the players are desperate because of the punishments and the incidents that are happening again and again. Of course you want say [to UEFA]: ‘Go to hell!’ I know. But I am not so naive to think that we’ve done all we can and now everything is finished. We haven’t. We are trying and we care. We are not just some guys in Nyon sitting eating fancy food and driving Ferraris. We are ready to listen to criticism,” he said. “Every week there is something – not just since Bulgaria, not since England, not since Cagliari. We’ve been listening. Every bloody week we hear about some some s* happening around Europe. And we speak. I went recently to the European Union. We speak with governments. We are trying to do something."
And, as an entertaining aside, he took at swipe at the UK’s most glorious Prime Minister:
"When a politician that calls women with burqas post boxes or mailboxes then says publicly that he condemns you UEFA – Do you reply to that? Do you believe it’s honest? Come on."
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Mr Roger Kirkpatrick
In some respects this is peak Italian football, but in others it’s basic and obvious stupidity. Anyway, onwards Eugenio.
IN OTHER NEWS
Sometimes you can’t do anything other than applaud.
"That doesn’t make the answer ‘yes’ for Messi. His 36 goals in 34 league appearances certainly make a case, as do his 12 goals in the Champions League. It wasn’t his fault Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead at Anfield in that extraordinary semi-final – a three-goal lead he practically built on his own. But he struggled on the international scene, unable to inspire Argentina as they fell in the Copa America semi-finals (more on that later). In another year, that may have still been enough to win the Ballon d’Or. But in 2019, a credible alternative has emerged to extend the Ronaldo-Messi drought. Virgil van Dijk."
It’s a very happy 68th birthday to John Burridge, so obviously we must share again this footage of his warm-up from his Crystal Palace days in the late 1970s. Enjoy.
Some piping hot Premier League action, as the first two games of that tax-flexible book website’s first foray into live English football. Where once you would order copies of Infinite Jest that you’d never read but leave on your shelf to make you look intellectual, now you can watch Burnley vs Manchester City, and Crystal Palace v Bournemouth. What a world.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Ben Snowball, who pays every penny of his taxes.