Anyone who loves the beautiful game is familiar with the corruption at the heart of FIFA.
We have seen the stewards of the world's sport let us down time and time again. They have sold the World Cup to human rights violators, accepted bribes at every turn, and traded football's soul for corporate kickbacks and bottomless Bud Lights.
Yet despite the depths to which they have already sunk, FIFA have somehow slumped to a new low. They have contrived a new way to insult not only Arsenal fans, but everyone who relishes the beautiful game: Francis Coquelin has been left off the Ballon d'Or shortlist.
C'est tout simplement horrible.
It is an oversight so gauche that one might assume it must be parody. Yet here we are, eating beluga caviar on Ritz crackers. The trophy recognizing the finest player in world football and Francis Coquelin is not even being considered? It is so atrocious, the mind can hardly comprehend it, like being asked to eat sayori sashimi paired with a petite sirah.
For more than a year now, Francis Coquelin has been the finest football player on the planet. He has glided across the pitches of England showing immaculate skill, defending Arsenal's backline and setting up its attack with breathtaking flourishes. His technique is so refined that it can only be compared to Michelangelo's brushstrokes--that is, if you're a simpleton who thinks a Renaissance hack outstrips the Dutch mastery of Rembrandt. (But then again, I don't think anyone from FIFA is reading this!)
In the Football Association Cup Final he was able to not only master the erratic tactics that had brought Aston Villa to the summit of English football, but also beat the winningest manager in Spurs history. It is too rare that talent and persiflage are so effortlessly combined in a single outstanding player. But like Arnold Schoenberg's Fourth String Quartet, he defies categorization or simple understanding.
The eye test paints a glorious picture that should bring tears to the eyes of all but the most corrupt FIFA officials, but the statistics back up Coquelin's greatness as well. Between January and April of this year, Coquelin made at least 31 more tackles and interceptions than any other player in the Premier League of England in 2015.
Those aren't just numbers, they are statistical enumerations of greatness.
The heart of the matter is that FIFA's corruption now extends its perfidious fingers beyond international tournaments. Now it is damaging the players who make up the sport. How will future generations look back and understand Francis''s transcendence when they see he only has the same number of Ballon d'Ors as Lionel Messi, or God forbid, fewer? How will they understand this luminous player who single handedly transformed Arsenal from a weak-willed, flaky member of Europe's second tier into the footballing titan--Prometheus, of course--that they are today? Coquelin has brought the gift of fire down from the heavens, but all FIFA can see are the pale shadows he casts into their desolate cave.
Many, many years ago, the Ballon d'Or was created in honor of footballing greats like Cruyff, Di Stefano, and Arshavin. Today, FIFA has tarnished that legacy. We might as well give it to Robin Van Persie.