Ronaldo honoured at Lisbon Gala

FIFA invited the football world to its annual Gala Evening, this year in Lisbon, and the guests responded willingly to applaud the world's outstanding trio of strikers and an exceptional sportsman.

In third place was Alan Shearer, the England captain, while second spot went to last year's winner, George Weah. So the 2006 FIFA World Player could only be Ronaldo, the 20 year-old Brazilian whose goals for Barcelona in the demanding environment of the Spanish top flight and whose exploits for Brazil had made clearly the biggest impression on the 120 national team coaches voting for the sixth FIFA Player of the Year.

The choice was well received by the assembled celebrity guests in Belem and by millions watching on television in all continents. And, naturally, by Ronaldo himself, who confirmed to the 150 media representatives present that this was the greatest honour of his fledgling career. He was, after all, following in a tradition including such names as fellow Brazilian Romario, Roberto Baggio, Marco Van Basten, Lothar Matthäus and Weah.

Matthaus was on hand to be among the first to congratulate Ronaldo - and also to join the prolonged applause for George Weah, as the towering Liberian striker received the annual FIFA Fair Play Award for his selflessness in helping his country play its World Cup qualifying matches. Weah immediately handed over the 10,000 CHF cheque which formed part of his prize to a child from SOS Children's Villages, FIFA's adopted charity, on behalf of the SOS village in Liberia.

There was recognition, too, for the national associations of Ghana and USA, for their help to Liberia and Guatemala respectively in staging their FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. USA, led by team captain Carla Overbeck, also stepped up for the Fair Play Award for the Women's Olympic Tournament, while the men's award went to Argentina.

Ronaldo's national team coach, Mario Zagallo, joined CBF President Ricardo Teixeira to receive the Best Team of the Year Award, while the trophy for the team that had made the most progress in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Ranking in 1996 went to South Africa.