FIFAPRO 11 Statistics: Where Did All the Arabs and Muslims Go?

The initial FIFAPro list for 2023 has been announced on Wednesday January 3rd, 2024, and it includes renowned footballers like Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Emiliano Martinez, Virgil van Dijk and Rodri, while names like Mohamed Salah, Nimar, and Robert Lewandowski are absent.

The final list of 11 FIFAPro members is to be announced on January 15th, at The Best FIFA Football Awards. However, the absence or inconsistent presence of the celebrated Liverpool star Mo Salah and other Arab Muslim players from the list for years begs the question, could the two decades old award be contaminated with Islamophobia or racism?


How are FIFAPRO Awards Decided?

Answering this question is linked to the way the final list is made. FIFAPro is the only sports awards decided by the players, for the players. Football players choose their votes from a guidance list with approximately 250 votes to which they can add extra names of other players.

Looking at the last three years, how inclusive is the FIFAPro of Arabs or Muslims?

In 2022, Achraf Hakimi from Morocco was the first African player to be included in the lineup since 2007, next to Algerian French Karim Benzema. The rest of the final list included names like French Kylian Mbappe, English Erling Haaland, and Dutch Van Dijk. While none of the 11 members who made it to the 2021 list were Muslim or Arab, names like David Alaba, N’Golo Kante and Ruben Dias were next to Messi and Ronaldo, the former was featured in FIFAPro 16 times, while the later 15 times until this year. While no country has more Men’s World 11 appearances than Spain, who currently hold the record of 45 appearances from 11 players.

In 2020, Salah came sixth in the list scoring 25 points, among other players from Spain, Brazil, UK, and Germany. Robert Lewandowski won the award with 52 rank points.

A full report of FIFAPRO through the years shows a striking absence of Arab footballers. The award has repeatedly featured 80 players among hundreds of others, most of them come from Spain, Portugal, Italy and England.

What is new this year?

This year, the award-among many other things-remain sensitive to the situation in Gaza. Looking at the initial 23 nominees, the Algerian Karim Benzema seems to have made it to the list despite facing backlash in France due to his support for Palestine, which is counter to the assumption that Salah’s absence could be because of his stance on Gaza-Israel conflict.

Yet, this does not negate the gap in FIFAPro along its 19 years, that leaves out Arabs and Muslims. If the award is decided by players, among players, for players, is it safe to assume that there is an inner bias towards some nationalities more than others subconsciously affecting the overall image of the award?

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