The set made it look like the final scene of the first Bill & Ted film, the one with George Carlin, that Robbi Robb song and the low-budget sci-fi scenery.

The Best’s dynamic wasn’t quite that cheerful. The cold chrome and mood lighting were harbingers of something much more sinister. Maybe the world outside had been destroyed and that all that remained was this preposterous demonstration of FIFA’s self-importance.

Perhaps that’s a touch dramatic, but it’s a more than functional metaphor.

Mainly because this is how things seem to be now. These events have a script. Inside the building, of course, with the wooden banter and those strange Euro-American accents, but outside too, where the watching world always seems to respond in the same way. With mockery first, then bemusement, then outright anger.

That represents a strange contradiction. On every other night of the year, The Best is completely benign. It carries no weight whatsoever. Not just because it is only in its fourth year of existence and has none of the Ballon d’Or’s gravitas but rather, those issues aside, because it’s just plainly weird. It’s like a party thrown by someone who has no friends, who has no understanding for how humans interact.

Even now, at this early stage, its history is littered with anomalies. In 2016, for instance, it awarded Falcao – the Futsal player, not the Colombian forward – with a lifetime achievement award. A worthy nod of appreciation, but one never offered again; nobody has been recognised in the same way since.

Also in 2016, at the event’s inaugural running, FIFA recognised Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund supporters for that joint rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. A fine moment, for sure, but still representative of a central tokenism. Of everything that happened in 2016 – the fan initiatives, the collections for food banks, the stands against fascism, homophobia and racism – that was top of the pile?

In a way, it describes what FIFA are. Or, more accurately, it confirms what those outside the organisation think of FIFA. They run the game, but they’re only interested in certain parts of it. Think of it this way: if there were a football-themed pub quiz contested by hundreds of teams from different countries and all walks of life, FIFA’s Executive Committee would come last. Always and inevitably.

On Monday night, Leeds United, who authored arguably the funniest cheating scandal of the last decade, were awarded a fair play award for allowing Aston Villa to score an uncontested goal. There’s no harm in it, but – again – its indicative of superficiality. You can imagine the meeting in which some of these categories were decided. Sharp suits, sharp haircuts, blank faces.

To say that this event exists only for the sake of sponsorship is hardly original. After all, there are entire sports which are built around the need to iron logos onto shirts, shorts or vehicles. But perhaps The Best’s greatest tell is in its tone.

On Monday night, several award winners used their platform for tremendous good. Jurgen Klopp announced his involvement with the Common Goal charity. Well done to him. Megan Rapinoe took the stage and urged proper action against the societal evils which continue to plague the game. Well done to her. But, then, look at how awkward Gianni Infantino looked at that moment, during the few seconds when the camera framed him.

His expression betrayed discomfort, this sense that – no – this was supposed to be a night of back-slapping. FIFA has always appeared to find football’s real issues deeply inconvenient. While it’s capable of constructing ever more complicated competitions – with more rounds, more teams and more broadcasting revenue – and it sails through the logistical challenges posed by such expansion, it becomes bizarrely impotent in the face of almost anything of real substance.

And we know this. And we talk about it all the time. And we understand how incidental these ceremonies are and how bereft of sincerity and significance they will always, always be.

And yet there’s always this great outrage at who gets patted on the back. The Best’s World XI is still fluttering around social media and people are upset by that. And by Virgil van Dijk not winning his Best Player category. Click further and you’ll find the inevitable retaliation. The statistical testimony which supports Lionel Messi’s case, a mini cultural thesis which proves that, in fact, he should win all awards, always. Go down the internet’s darker hallways and, presumably, the same is being said about Cristiano Ronaldo.

Someone. Even. Made. A. Graph.

So on the one hand the universal position is to mock these nights and to enjoy the ritual of machine-gunning facetiousness into the online ether. On the other, the tendency is to get really, really upset by all the trivialities it throws up. In fact, at the time of writing, there are journalists making serious points derived from voting patterns. Messi voted for this player, Ronaldo didn’t vote for that one; Five Things We Learned.

This is hardly a unique situation. Where there are individual awards, there are always squabbles. What makes this interesting, though, is that The Best is a commonly recognised nadir. For 364 days of each year, it’s ridiculed for the vacuum of self-celebration that it so obviously is. On the 365th day, it holds the power to start furious arguments.

Why is that? Broadly, of course, because supporters are loyal to players who represent their teams. But while that’s undeniably true, it’s also a thickening vein of tribalism. Once upon a time, a team’s defeat used to leave a fan in a days-long sulk. Now, the world’s failure to recognise a particular player can leave a fan fighting back the tears and punching his or her keyboard. Even when the award is meaningless. Even when a footballer’s loyalty is to his contract rather than his club.

Even with something like this, which was concocted and devised by the sport’s Charlatans-on-High and designed just to produce another revenue stream. Even now, it’s not okay just to shrug and move on.

Why?

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

 

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Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com

 

A tale of three managers
After yesterday’s fixtures it made me wonder who will be the first to leave their managerial post, Quique Sanchez Flores at halftime, Mauricio Pochettino after Spurs lose another lead or Marco Silva after yet another poor Everton performance.

Answers on a postcard of course.
Mikey, CFC 

 

And a fourth
Well that was the last straw.  I’ve stood by this City team through thick and thin but that was an utter disgrace.  I’m sorry but I can’t defend these overpaid, bone idle Prima Donnas anymore.  We mere mortals actually have to do REAL work for a living in order to pay through the nose for inflated ticket prices.  If we’re going to cough up these huge sums, then the VERY LEAST the team can do is entertain us.  What did we get yesterday instead?  Five goals in 18 minutes which was sort of all right, but they then go and make us wait a full 30 MINUTES for another goal?!  I mean, what planet are these players, sorry jokers, on?  Hang your head in shame Bernardo you lazy git and a certain someone needs to pull his finger out for more than just one in every 10 or 12 games.  Yeah, looking at you Kevin!

Guardiola needs to fine the whole lot two weeks wages and put ‘em out training with the kids for a month.  See how they like that.  And if Pep hasn’t got the cojones to do it then he can f*ck off as well and take his so-called ‘system’ with him and good riddance.
Mark (I mean, what has Guardiola ever done for us?  Apart from the trophies and the hundred points and losing just one PL game in the last 8 months and ……………….) MCFC.

 

Son’s crying
I advocated for VAR when others dismissed it’s positives before it was implemented.

But…

If Son is offside in the build up to Aurier’s goal, then I don’t want any part in this new reality.
James F, BCFC KRO

 

We were robbed.

The goal was quite possibly going to be the sucker punch to take the wind from Leicester’s sails, but instead, the Foxes got a new lease of life and new energy. Props to them for using it effectively, but for our part, don’t talk to me about professionalism or Spursy; it would be difficult for any human being to get over the unfairness of it.

When did the powers that be decide that VAR offside decisions should achieve better than inch-perfect accuracy? There are several reasons that would be ridiculous:

1) There is no way the picture resolution even allows for such perfectionism.

2) Do they check that the picture used is from the exact millisecond the ball ceased to be in contact with the passers foot?

3) Where does a person’s shoulder end and the arm start, when the arm is in a horizontal position? Or where a person’s buttocks exactly reside in their shorts? The rule itself is hardly accurate enough for this kind of scrutiny.

4) To do it properly with this accuracy, it takes way more time than these checks should take. This pause was already too long, and we can’t be sure they even got it right (see points 1 to 3).

They’re quick enough to find a frame that more or less depicts the offside situation. If that’s indecisive, just call it good. VAR has enough PR problems already without this kind of silliness.
Samuli, THFC, Helsinki (And yes, I do realize City got robbed against us similarly, though subjectively speaking, it may have been marginally less ridiculously perfectionist)

 

The other side
I am sure your still get scads of email about the disallowed Tottenham goal.  But before taking it all out on VAR, take a moment to recall all the horrible offside calls and no-calls that awarded goals or took away goal scoring chances. I’ll gladly take a hyper-legal ruling from VAR to avoid all the unfairness that happened before.

Regards,
David O, California

 

Don’t be Rash
Let me move clear of any rotten tomatoes flung my way by saying that I am not suggesting Rashford is anywhere close to Aguero’s class (Aguero has class while we are still debating if Rashford has quality) .

But seeing Man City’s rout of Watford yesterday I couldn’t help but notice that Aguero too squandered a lot of chances..a chip over the keeper that went the wrong side of the post.. a couple of tap ins at the keeper or into side netting.. but still he finished the match with a goal nevertheless from the penalty meaning his goal/minute ratio remains preserved. And he will finish most matches with atleast a goal purely because of the De Bruyne and Silvas masterclass behind him.

Rashford (or any other United Striker right now) on the other hand feeds on scraps every match.. and why wouldn’t they given the creative ability of the United midfield. Apart from having lesser chances each match to tuck one away its also making the strikers rusty.. its like expecting your first shot in a training session to be your best one..

And its not Rashford/Martial who are the first being accussed of not being clinical in front of goal… we have had some of the better finishers in Lukaku and Falcao also seeming worse than they are in this line up…

Improve this midfield.. and we may find Rashford or Martial or both seeming much more like proper CFs..
Akshay (Tottenham seemed to have joined the Arsenal and United party in doing their utmost to not finish in the top 4)

 

Celebrate good times. Come on!
Dear Sir or Madam,

I’ve had a few and I’m watching Saturday’s highlights.

They’re pretty depressing.

Remember being able to spontaneously celebrate goals?! That was cool huh? And kind of the whole point of being a football supporter…

HA!

Forget about that! Let’s get the rulers and the f*#÷@*  protractors out first. It turns out my GCSE maths teacher was right! Trigonometry IS important!

I was literally looking at a mathematical equation on my screen today when I thought I’d tuned in to watch Spurs play the bin robbers.

I’m at the point where if you remain an advocate of VAR, even a”Ooh it’s the rules that need to change,” defender of VAR, to me (Clive), you’re a tRump supporter! You’re a jolly Brexiteer.  You’re a climate change denier.

You’re trying to ruin something I love.

I wouldn’t want to have a drink with you and I don’t think you really understand what makes football exciting.

You know what? Football isn’t perfect. Refs aren’t perfect. But guess what? Life ain’t perfect. Deal with that. Don’t ruin it. It ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.

Enjoy the things that are joyful. Like f**king celebrating goals.

Peace and love
Al (Goal line tech fine! It’s black and white and it’s instantaneous and it’s fair. NOT a Luddite.) NFFC

 

(It’s because we have limited staff on weekends)
Hi

Is there a reason that F365 and the vast majority of the press isn’t reporting the news that Liverpool paid Manchester City £1m for illegally accessing City’s scouting software?

The Leeds United “spygate” was much much less sinister yet was the lead story on actual news bulletins, not just sport.

I get, as this site points out thankfully, that Liverpool are the Mother Teresa of modern football if you read certain sections of the press, but this blanket of silence is just beyond weird.
Gav, Edinburgh 

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Leeds United are the favourites to win the Championship with odds of around 6/4 across the bookmakers.

That’s perfectly reasonable given the size of the club, how close they came last season, and the pedigree of their manager.

The relegated duo of Fulham and Cardiff are just behind in the betting, with West Brom also heavily fancied to gain promotion.

A word of caution, though, before you lump your mortgage on Leeds to win promotion this season: In the last 19 years, fewer than half of the pre-season promotion favourites have achieved that goal.

Last season, Championship winners Norwich City were an outsider at 25/1 – the biggest outsiders to win it this century actually, and runners-up Sheffield United were 28/1.

The Championship is, quite simply, an incredibly tough competition to predict.

Why is the Championship so unpredictable?

It’s tough to put your finger on any one reason, but it certainly seems to be becoming more unpredictable by the year.

A large reason for that at the moment is the tightening of financial restrictions on clubs, which is causing many to slash their budgets to avoid taking a points deduction similar to that which Birmingham City received last season.

Birmingham City

The Blues were docked nine points for ‘breaking Profitability and Sustainability regulations’ after the Football League found they were £9.787m in excess of the permitted financial losses over a three-year period.

Birmingham have since sold their star player, Che Adams, to try and bring their finances back in line with the regulations and they are not the only club forced into such action.

One thing is for sure, though: even if you could identify a specific reason why the Championship was so unpredictable, you’d be crazy to ‘fix’ it.

 

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