Cristiano Ronaldo collected his first FIFA World Player title while Marta claimed her third successive FIFA Women's World Player award at the 18th FIFA World Player Gala at the Zurich Opera House on Monday evening.
Ronaldo had a remarkable 2008, in which he scored 31 goals for Manchester United in the Premier League and propelled his club not only to another league title but also to the UEFA Champions League crown. He performed creditably at international level at UEFA EURO 2008, although Portugal were eliminated in the quarter-finals. Ronaldo reaped 935 points in the vote in which the coaches and captains of 155 national teams took part. Argentina's Lionel Messi finished second (678 points) and was trailed by Spain's Fernando Torres (203), Brazil's Kaká (183) and Spain's Xavi (155).
Marta delivered an outstanding performance at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing 2008, and equalled the record set by Birgit Prinz by claiming her third consecutive FIFA Women's World Player title. For the women's vote, 139 coaches and captains cast their vote and Marta won comfortably (1,002 points) ahead of Germany's Birgit Prinz (328), Brazil's Cristiane (275), Germany's Nadine Angerer (198) and England's Kelly Smith (150).
For the first time ever, a distinction was awarded for one of the many development programmes supported by FIFA. The purpose of the FIFA Development Award is to recognise the work carried out by FIFA and the 208 FIFA member associations in the area of football development. The Palestinian Football Federation was honoured for having maintained, under difficult circumstances, their football organisation and their national team. FA-President Jibril Al Rajoub as well as the captain of the womens team, Honey Thaljiyeh and the captain of the mens team, Ahmad Kashkash received the award on stage.
Together with the help of FIFA and some donators, the FA completed a major refurbishment of the Al-Husseini Stadium, in the city of Al-Ram near Ramallah, which has become the first stadium in the Palestinian territories to meet the requirements to stage an international game. As a result, on 26 October 2008, Palestine were able to play their first international match at home, against Jordan, since the affiliation of their football association to FIFA in 1998.
The FIFA Presidential Award went to women's football in general in acknowledgement of its tremendous development worldwide. It was presented to the US women's national team in recognition of their outstanding performances on the field and their immense contribution to increasing the popularity of the women's game. Amongst others, US women have clinched gold at the Olympics three times (1996, 2004, 2008) and won the FIFA Women's World Cup twice (1991, 1999), and they were also victorious at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2008. At the Gala, US international midfielder Heather O'Reilly collected the trophy from FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and Football Committee member Charmaine Hooper.
The FIFA Fair Play Award went to the President and team captain of the Turkish Football Association, Mahmut Özgener and Tuncay Sanli respectively, as well as their counterparts at the Football Federation of Armenia, President Ruben Hayrapetyan and team captain Sargis Hovsepyan. During the 6 September Armenia v. Turkey FIFA World Cup qualification match, the Presidents of both countries shook hands after decades of distrust and diplomatic silence between the two countries.