A new page of football history will be written this evening with the unveiling of the first FIFA Ballon d’Or winner and, fittingly, many of the game’s true greats will be there to see it happen.
Stars’ sights on success
Top billing, of course, goes to the nominees themselves, with most intrigue centring on who will become the inaugural recipient of this fusion of the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player awards. The interest has merely been heightened by the fact that all three contenders share the same dressing room at club level, and Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi will all be in Zurich to find out which of them will be taking this coveted new honour back to Barcelona.
This will also be the first year in which FIFA honours the game’s leading coaches and, again, the men’s award is certain to return to Spain, with La Liga rivals Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola sharing a stage with FIFA World Cup winner Vicente del Bosque. Also gracing the red carpet at Zurich’s Kongresshaus will be two women hoping for FIFA Women’s World Cup glory this summer, with USA’s Swedish supremo Pia Sundhage and Germany’s Silvia Neid hoping to start the year in style by edging out the Germans’ U-20 coach Maren Meinert.
History could also be made in the FIFA Women’s World Player award, with the inimitable Marta having arrived in Zurich with the aim of further extending her record streak of four successive titles. Standing in the Brazilian’s way are a formidable German duo: old foe and three-time winner Birgit Prinz and a new pretender to the throne, 22-year-old Fatmire Bajramaj.
There will also be a varied collection of contenders for the FIFA Puskas Award, with lesser-known figures such as Matthew Burrows, Kumi Yokohama and Linus Hallenius rubbing shoulders with the illustrious likes of Giovanni van Bronkhorst, Hamit Altintop, Siphiwe Tshabala and Messi himself.
Legends and former winners
For the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, there will also be a potent reminder of the award’s significance thanks to the presence of several of their predecessors. Among the most illustrious will be the Michel Platini and Marco van Basten, whose shared the tally of three Ballon d’Ors established them alongside Johan Cruyff as the most successful figures in the award’s 54-year history.
Joining them will be Lothar Matthaus, a Ballon d’Or winner in 1990 and the recipient of the first ever FIFA World Player award a year later. Memories will also be stirred for the on-looking George Weah, who won both awards in 1995, and Jean-Pierre Papin, who picked up the Ballon d’Or in 1991.
Plenty more legendary footballing figures will be in attendance, with the likes of Roger Milla, Gunter Netzer, Ali Daei, Didier Deschamps, Abedi Pele, Rinat Dasaev and Christian Karembeu all making their way to Zurich for this historic event.
And last but not least will be the two people whose agreement made the FIFA Ballon d’Or a reality. FIFA President Joseph S.Blatter and his Amaury Group counterpart Marie-Odile Amaury agreed and unveiled this new award back in July and both are set to look on proudly as its first recipient is revealed in front of a packed and star-studded crowd.