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

Global Times - - Sports - JONATHAN WHITE

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 him 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.

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