The 2020 Ballon d’Or: A missed opportunity to recognise greatness

“No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history”. This quote, made famous by literary critic William Hazlitt, popped into my head recently when I heard of the cancelation of the 2020 edition of the Ballon d’Or Ceremony. 

I could not help but think as to how much of a shame it is that the professional sportsmen, who have risked more than we ever could have asked from them in such uncertain times, will be unable to be recognised by such awards. They will be denied their page in history.

At a time when nations across the globe have remained in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes have been asked to risk their own health to play in contact sports, in order to bring entertainment back to the general public. Indeed, in the NBA, players are even being asked to separate from their families, so that the season can resume. These players have to undergo regular tests and endure levels of stress and hardship previously unknown to many of them.

Nonetheless, L’Equipe has decided that the annual gathering that recognises the achievements of these brave individuals will no longer go ahead. On paper, this seems a reasonable decision, for 2 of the 11 months that the title of the world’s best footballer is decided upon were periods of inactivity.

However, players have since had to compete at an increased rate of fixtures, in unfamiliar circumstances – such as empty stadiums becoming the new normal – with their only prior preparation being the limited training they were able to conduct during lockdown. Should they not be rewarded by being recognised for this?

Granted, these are unusual times. The Ballon d’Or would have to be awarded on different parameters than it usually is. However, this lack of consistency does not mean the award should be cancelled altogether.

Lionel Messi and Megan Rapinoe should not be denied the right to retain their crowns. Furthermore, stars like Robert Lewandowski, who has arguably been having the most prolific year of his entire career, should not miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, due to a global pandemic that was entirely out of his control.

The world could do with a Ballon d’Or Ceremony to bring some positivity and celebrate those who have excelled in these toughest of times. After all, coming through adversity is one of the truest signs of greatness.


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Luke Saward