FIFA covers give an insight into soccer’s journey during the last 24 years

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/28 23:08:39

There are many people who think he might be the very embodiment of smugness already, but Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to be quite pleased with himself this morning. The Real Madrid striker will be winging his way around the world on the cover of FIFA 18, another honor that he has taken from his great rival Lionel Messi. 

Admittedly, it won't be quite as satisfying as the Ballon d'Or or FIFA - the organization rather than the video game - naming his as the best men's player. Similarly, the fact that Marco Reus won the popular vote to be on the cover of FIFA 17 takes some of the shine off it, too, but none of this will put Ronaldo off, especially as the cover is his alone. 

Messi was on the cover of four ­releases in a row from FIFA 13 to FIFA 16 - but he had to share the cover in the game's different regional and national editions. Once that meant shared billing with Jordan Henderson, who won the vote to feature alongside the Argentine superstar on the UK cover for FIFA 2016. At least Alex Morgan on the US edition and Christine Sinclair on the US and Canada editions that year were apt choices for the first time that women's teams were included in the game.

Sharing was standard. Wayne Rooney shared seven covers in a row until his run ended with FIFA 12. He's in illustrious company with the game's best in making multiple covers. Thierry Henry was on three before he defected for the cover of Pro Evolution Soccer but not all of those covers exuded the Frenchman's undoubted cool.  

His FIFA 2002 cover sees him in a shirt that is recognizably Arsenal but has no Nike markings. This only serves to make it look like he bought a knockoff jersey during his summer holidays. It was doubly strange given that it was not a problem for his FIFA 2004 cover, but a low-rent aesthetic was typical of early FIFA games. 

David Ginola was the game's first proper cover star when he fronted FIFA 97 but his Newcastle United kit was missing sponsor, manufacturer and the club badge. At least his presence - and Bebeto's on the international version - made some sense; the same can't be said for what they replaced. The FIFA 96 ­cover featured the 1994 Anglo-Italian Cup final between Notts County and Brescia. The image itself was of a tackle by County's Andy Legg on Ioan Sabau. 

That cover beat out Ireland's ­Jason McAteer and Holland's Frank de Boer jostling for the ball on all but the ­European version. That was a move as odd as Tottenham Hotspur keeper Erik ­Thorsvedt being the man on FIFA 95. The first in the series set a high bar: England's David Platt and Poland's ­Piotr Swierczewski. Or in the rest of the world, an image from a Euro 88 group game between Holland and Ireland - this was 1993. 

The journey of the FIFA covers is the journey of soccer over the last 24 years. Everything has become a lot more polished, the past seems frankly bizarre, Rooney is overlooked, and Ronaldo ­refuses to share. All that, and no one's sure why Jordan Henderson is there.  

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.


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