World Football Governing Body FIFA has denied claims from some football federations that votes for Lionel Messi to win the Best Player Award were rigged.
Lionel Messi walked away with the best men’s player accolade at the glitzy ceremony in Milan on Monday, pipping Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk to the award.
Given Van Dijk’s remarkable season at Liverpool and Ronaldo’s excellent campaign at Juventus – Messi winning the award was met with a degree of surprise.
FIFA determines the best players based on the votes of national team coaches, captains as well as a journalist from each country.
But Messi’s claim to the honour has been thrown into doubt following after Egyptian football association and Nicaragua’s captain Juan Barrera raised concerns over the authenticity of the ballots – citing uncounted or misallocated votes.
Egypt’s association called on FIFA to explain why the votes of Coach Shawki Ghareeb and captain Ahmed Elmohamady were not taken into account.
Ghareeb and Elmohamady – who both opted for Mohamed Salah as their top choice – are not mentioned in FIFA’s publication of official votes that was published after the award ceremony.
The Egyptian FA claim they officially sent their votes to FIFA on August 15, four days before the deadline.
On Thursday, the governing body provided an explanation as to why the Egyptian’s votes weren’t included – claiming the signatures on the voting forms were in capital letters and thus invalid.
FIFA also cites the Egyptian’s voting forms were not signed by the federations’ general secretary which is mandatory.
From there, the Egyptian FA was contacted by FIFA requesting confirmations from their captain and coach.
According to the FIFA voting office, which is monitored by independent observer PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Egyptian FA received two reminders to submit the properly signed voting forms by August 19.
FIFA insists the Egyptian FA did not respond until August 21 and therefore, the votes from the Egyptian FA could not be counted.
The governing body was also keen to stress that the Egyptian FA was in turmoil in July and August – by which point voting for ‘The Best’ awards was already open – after its leadership resigned due to the national team’s early exit at the African Cup of Nations.