“The tuxedo is ready, the stylist is coming,” James Nesbitt tells FIFA.com, ticking off his checklist ahead of hosting the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala. “I've even got a choice of tuxes!” he adds with delight. So, there is no doubt the Northern Irish film star will be looking sharp on stage for his debut in Zurich, then.
As a passionate fan of the beautiful game, Nesbitt admits there are a few nerves, what with the company he will be sharing the spotlight with. “I'm excited enough when I get to meet players from involved with my hometown club of Coleraine!” the award-winning actor admitted.
“There's always the chance that I might break out into a rash or start crying at the moment I start seeing Ronaldo,” the Manchester United fan said with a smile. “I'm planning to play it quite cool, but I'm sure that won't be the case on the night.”
He has had the fortune of briefly meeting the Portuguese superstar before – following the Red Devils' UEFA Champions League triumph in Moscow – but admitted the night was more memorable for Sir Alex Ferguson's attempts at breakdancing, rather than rubbing shoulders with United's No7.
In Zurich he will be ably supported by fellow presenter Kate Abdo – returning for her second time anchoring the show – and Nesbitt knows she will have his back. “She's so cool and such a respected journalist. Kate's incredibly passionate about sport, so I'm hoping she's going to keep me right!”
Abdo is also particularly adept when it comes to foreign languages, but should the likes of Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane or Karim Benzema earn a place in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI, there's a chance Nesbitt could dust off his own linguistic talents. “A long, long, long time ago I was going to be a French teacher, but I packed it in.”
“The big challenge will not be me speaking other languages, it will be them understanding my Northern Irish accent!” the actor, who was one of the stars of The Hobbit trilogy, confessed. But standing in a position that so many supporters dream of is what he is looking forward to.
“I'm quite excited about getting the opportunity to speak to them on stage, getting to ask questions that a fan would ask. It's a big responsibility, as I'm representing millions of people of all ages from all over the world.”
One thing he is “under strict orders not to do”, unlike the fans lining the red carpet, is use his privileged position to hunt for autographs. “It'll be very hard to resist. If anything it could be worth a quite a bit,” he said with a wink.
Despite that, he is eager to celebrate a great year of football, with the FIFA Women's World Cup™ a particular highlight. “Canada was so incredible, wasn't it? It was such a big breakthrough with so many brilliant games in terms of attendances for women's football. Overall I think it's one of the greatest stories of the year.”
In the men's game, Neymar and Lionel Messi leading to Barcelona five trophies and Ronaldo rewriting the record books once again all rank highly in Nesbitt's moments of 2015, but the big one for him will not be represented on stage. “For me personally the year's all about Northern Ireland. [Reaching UEFA EURO 2016] was the real icing on the cake.”
So surely there is no better way to start a big year of football for Nesbitt than with the biggest stars of the game.