A veritable who's who of world football came together in Basle on Monday for the 13th end-of-year FIFA World Player awards ceremony, crowning another glittering year of drama and triumph on the world's football pitches. Around 2,000 invited guests filled the hall at the Swiss city's trade fair and waited expectantly to discover who would scoop this year's honours.
Following triumphs in 1998 and 2000, Zinedine Zidane finished on 264 points to claim a third FIFA World Player of the Year accolade, well clear of fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry on 186 and Brazil star Ronaldo on 176. Zidane thus draws level with Ronaldo, who also has three FIFA World Player titles to his name.
Birgit Prinz took the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award for the first time, scoring 268 points to top Mia Hamm on 133 and Hanna Ljungberg on 88 points. Prinz was also a last-minute choice to present Zidane, Henry and Ronaldo with their trophies. Hamm missed the ceremony but for a good reason: she was on her honeymoon.
The FIFA Top Team 2003 trophy went to Brazil, never toppled from first place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking during the year. Brazilian Football Association President Ricardo Teixeira stepped forward with Ronaldo to accept the trophy. FIFA Best Mover 2003 was Bahrain, with Sheikh Ziyad Bin Faisal Al-Khalifa, a member of the executive committee of the Bahrain Football Association, receiving the award.
The FIFA Fair Play Award went to the fans of Glasgow giants Celtic for their exceptional and sporting behaviour at the UEFA Cup Final in Seville. Tens of thousands of Bhoys followers journeyed to the southern Spanish city even though the club's ticket contingent was long exhausted, but despite their heroes' defeat, still celebrated a joyful and incident-free festival of football. Celtic executive director Peter Lawwell and Eddie Toner, a member of the Celtic FC Supporters Association, accepted the trophy on behalf of the fans.
The FIFA Presidential Award 2003 was presented to the Iraqi football community. FIFA President Joseph S Blatter praised the nation's energy and determination to drive forward the development of football despite the difficult situation in the country. Iraqi Football Association President Mohammed Hussein Saeed, the German coach of the Iraqi national team Bernd Stange, and national team captain Naji Husam represented Iraq at the ceremony.
Entertainment during the 75 minute event was provided by top acts including Swiss star DJ Bobo. Following the ceremony, two teams of world stars laid on a festival of football for a worthy cause in the 'Match against Poverty' as Ronaldo and Friends met Zidane and Friends in a charity spectacular, ending in a 4-3 victory for the Brazilian's side in front of a capacity crowd at the St Jakob Park in Basle.
That concluded the official programme, but modern professional players have plenty of stamina and drive in reserve: Ronaldo and company continued the festivities into the early hours at Basle discotheque Mad Max, swapping notes and stories with fellow stars from around the world. The revellers included Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, David Beckham, Vitor Baía, Edwin van der Sar, Michel Salgado, Fernando Couto and Murat Yakin.