It's still early days in 2013, but the new footballing year is already in full swing, with a memorable first highlight for the fans on Monday, 7 January 2013 when the best women’s and men’s players of 2012 were crowned at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala. As in previous years, the crème de la crème of the footballing world stopped by as the red carpet in front of Kongresshaus Zurich took on the look and feel of the Academy Awards.
At the climax of the glittering ceremony, Lionel Messi was named the best men’s player in the world over the last 12 months, while Abby Wambach rounded off a fantastic 2012 with the prestigious FIFA award for the best women’s player.
To kick off the Gala, the invited guests were greeted by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and France Football CEO Francois Moriniere. After the words of welcome from the two hosts, former Netherlands star Ruud Gullit and broadcast journalist Kay Murray took charge of the rest of the evening’s proceedings.
The immaculately turned-out presenters introduced the six female and male nominees for the best women’s and men’s player awards, creating a buzz of anticipation in the auditorium for the two most important honours of the evening. The audience then watched video clips of the three best goals of the year, one of which would later be announced as the winner of the FIFA Puskás Award.
Eleven world-class players, the best coaches
Then came the moment of truth for the eleven leading players of the year, as Ukrainian footballing legend Andriy Shevchenko took to the stage to announce the winning line-up. To thunderous applause, Iker Casillas (Spain), Dani Alves (Brazil), Marcelo (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Xavi Hernández (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) were named in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Many of the guests and viewers will have looked on in awe and admiration when the photo of the winning group was taken – can there be any coach in the world who would turn down the chance to field these 11 players in his or her line-up?
And coaching was the focus of the next item on the programme. Luiz Felipe Scolari gracefully announced the name of the FIFA Women's Coach of the Year 2012, handing the trophy to Pia Sundhage.
Scolari, who recently returned for a second spell at the helm of the Brazilian Seleção, also unveiled the FIFA Men's Coach of the Year 2012. This time the award went to Vicente del Bosque.
FIFA Presidential Award for Beckenbauer
A very special moment in the Gala came next, as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter stepped up to the podium to present the FIFA Presidential Award. “What I find particularly impressive about tonight's winner is his modesty. Despite the many awards and honours he has already received, he has remained down-to-earth, and is still the same open, honest, and approachable person,” said Blatter in his introduction, striking a chord with fans and players alike.
The audience then rose to acclaim Franz Beckenbauer with a standing ovation as he accepted the FIFA Presidential Award from Blatter.
During final counting of the votes for the best goal of the year, the Uzbekistan Football Federation (UFF) was presented with the FIFA Fair Play Award. This prize honours the fairness displayed by Uzbek national and club teams in AFC competitions over the past few years.
One beaming winner after another
The task of presenting the FIFA Puskás Award fell to a very special former player, Carlos Valderrama. El Pibe is widely considered the greatest Colombian player of all time,remembered for much more than merely his trademark mane of lustrous blonde hair. Once the votes cast by the busy users of FIFA.com were finally tallied, the award for the best goal of the year 2012 went to Miroslav Stoch.
As the Gala approached its climax, Amy MacDonald performed a song from her new album Life in a Beautiful Light. The ardent supporter of Glasgow giants Rangers presented a stunning rendition of Slow It Down, turning in a first-class musical performance for the audience, and handing the nominees for FIFA Women's Player of the Year 2012 a brief spell of calm before the nerve-tingling announcement.
Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Marta watched intently as USA keeper Hope Solo and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter opened the envelope containing the name of this year’s winner. Wambach could hardly believe it when her name was announced, before she stepped forward to accept her award.
"Most importantly, winning any individual award is a total product of the team that you play for," the striker said. "I've never scored a goal without receiving a pass from my team-mates. Thanks to all the fans out there who continue to inspire me and the rest of the team to win as many games as we can."
Just before eight o’clock, excited tension filled the auditorium, as the moment everyone had been waiting for finally arrived: the announcement of the winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012. Former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro presented the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 to Messi, who accepted it with these words, addressed both to the audience at Kongresshaus and the host of fans watching at home: "To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelieavable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.
"I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona: Iniesta it has been great to train and play alongside you. I would also like to recognise all of my friends in the Argentinian national team. Everyone that has worked with me coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you."
In the final highlight of an emotion-laden and star-studded FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2012, all the award winners took their places on stage again, well-deserved applause ringing around the hall as a wonderful evening drew to a close.