LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Last month Pele misguidedly published his “FIFA 100” – a list of the 100 greatest living footballers.
For some reason, never properly explained before or since, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tom Finney and John Charles, who was still alive when the list was compiled, were left out.
Yet, American female footballers Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm made the list.
It was hard to countenance that Pele, or his advisers, honestly believed that Mia Hamm is or was a better footballer than Finney or Jairzinho.
This month it is UEFA’s turn, for while FIFA are celebrating their centenary this year, UEFA, coincidentally, are marking their 50th anniversary.
It seems that no football anniversary can pass without a list of “The Best” this or “The Greatest” that to mark the occasion.
UEFA decided to commemorate their Golden Jubilee in a far more democratic way than FIFA.
Whereas FIFA merely asked Pele, UEFA canvassed the general public via the internet to vote on Europe’s greatest player of the last half-century.
As anyone who has ever sat in a bar talking football knows, this was a recipe for disaster.
There are grown men who would claim, given half the chance, that the Best 11 Players in the World Ever, only qualify for that list if they played for Liverpool.
There are other misguided souls who could not name the star players of last week, let alone last year or the last decade.
Then there are the 123,582 people who voted on the UEFA website for Zinedine Zidane of France.
He may well be. But then again, so might Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Marco Van Basten, Dino Zoff, Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Lev Yashin, Michel Platini or Paolo Maldini who all finished in the Top 10 behind Zidane in the voting.
So the argument comes to this: was Di Stefano a better footballer than Van Basten? Was Platini a better footballer than Zidane? The answer is: Who on earth knows?
The question should have been: What European has contributed more to European football than any other in the last 50 years?
There is only one candidate for that accolade: “Der Kaiser”, Franz Beckenbauer, who has been directly involved in football since he was a teenager.
The only man to win the World Cup as a player and as a coach, Beckenbauer has gone on to high office with Bayern Munich and is a figurehead in Germany’s 2006 World Cup plans.
He could have retired and played golf and spent days out in the 4x4 with his family.
Instead, he has continually worked for the sport that made him a rich and revered man from the time he was in his 20s.
The good thing is, no one has to decide on that contribution now.
It is 50 years until UEFA celebrates their centenary and 50 years before FIFA turn 150 years old.
By that time, hopefully, polls to find out who was the greatest this or the most fantastic that will have been consigned to the rubbish bins they belong in. – Reuters