Messi takes first award, Marta obtains record-breaking fourth crown
© Foto-net

Argentina’s Lionel Messi collected his first FIFA World Player of the Year title while Brazil’s Marta became the first to obtain four FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year awards at the 19th FIFA World Player Gala at the Zurich Kongresshaus on Monday evening. It was a night to remember, with on-stage appearances by former and current football stars, prominent celebrities and a musical show headlined by Italian pop star Laura Pausini.

Messi had an outstanding 2009, leading his club FC Barcelona to a historic season and collecting the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and Super Cup crowns and the Spanish Liga, Super Cup and Cup titles along the way. The 1,073 points he obtained in the vote, participated in by the coaches and captains of 147 national teams, saw him win by a clear margin ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo in second (352 points) and Spain’s Xavi (196), Brazil’s Kaka (190) and Spain’s Andres Iniesta (134).

Marta thrilled fans in the revamped Women’s Professional Soccer League in the U.S., where she won the Golden Boot and was elected best player of the season with Los Angeles Sol, and also claimed the titles of the women’s Copa Libertadores and Copa de Brasil with Santos. Votes were cast by 130 coaches and captains for the women’s award and Marta won for the fourth consecutive time (833 points), ahead of Germany’s Birgit Prinz (290), England’s Kelly Smith (252), Brazil’s Cristiane (239) and Germany’s Inka Grings (216). An overview of the complete results can be found on FIFA.com.

Two new awards were presented at the gala. The FIFA/FIFPro World XI to honour the best eleven players of the year, as chosen by over 50,000 professional players from all over the world, went to a real “dream team” featuring Iker Casillas (Spain) in goal; Daniel Alves (Brazil), Nemanja Vidic (Serbia), John Terry (England) and Patrice Evra (France) in defence; Steven Gerrard (England), Xavi (Spain) and Andres Iniesta (Spain) in midfield; and Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Fernando Torres (Spain) up front.

Also handed out for the first time was the FIFA Puskás Award for the 'most beautiful goal' of the year as voted for on FIFA.com by over 120,000 fans. This prize, created in honour and in memory of Ferenc Puskás, the captain and star of the Hungarian national team during the 1950s, went to Cristiano Ronaldo for his fantastic goal in the UEFA Champions League match between FC Porto and Manchester United on 15 April 2009.

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan received the FIFA Presidential Award for her relentless efforts to help provide an education to children all over the world through her role as co-chair of the '1Goal: Education for All' campaign. This campaign was launched in August 2009 at London’s Wembley Stadium and aims to provide an education to the over 72 million children globally who are denied the chance to go to school. It has been endorsed by world leaders, footballers and fans from all over the world and is also supported by FIFA and its President Joseph S. Blatter.

The FIFA Fair Play Award was given posthumously to Sir Bobby Robson for his outstanding commitment to the values of fair play throughout his career. Respected and admired by football fans from all over the world, he was considered as a true gentleman both on and off the pitch by team-mates and rivals alike. The award was collected by Lady Elsie Robson, widow of the legendary English player and manager who passed away in July 2009.

Finally, the FIFA Development Prize went to the Chinese Football Association for its commitment to a new FIFA grassroots programme in China PR. The programme, which has been launched in 44 cities and involves over a million children throughout the country, will help to move the focus in China PR away from elite football towards the development of a comprehensive grassroots programme.