The Essential Guide to the FIFA Ballon d’Or
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On January 2013, the eyes of the football world will be on Zurich’s Kongresshaus, the venue for the next FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, where this year’s winners will receive their deserved recognition. As the countdown continues towards a glittering occasion that brings together the stars of the sport, FIFA.com tells you everything you need to know about the event.

Which awards are made at the Gala?
Eight very special awards will be presented in all, the most eagerly awaited of them being the FIFA Ballon d’Or, given to the outstanding men’s player of 2012, and the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award. The names of the FIFA Men’s and Women’s Coaches of the Year will also be announced as well as the winner of the FIFA Puskas Award for the goal of the year, and the members of the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. The evening’s other two accolades are the FIFA Presidential Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award.

How is the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or chosen? Who is eligible to vote?
Though much speculation surrounds the selection of the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, the fact is that the process is a very simple and democratic one. The national team coaches and captains of FIFA’s member associations are joined by members of the press in voting for their players of the year from a 23-man shortlist put together by FIFA’s Football Committee and a group of experts from France Football. The player receiving the highest number of votes will then step up to collect the award at the Gala. Exactly the same system is used to decide the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and the FIFA Men’s and Women’s Coaches of the Year.

Why is 29 November such a special day?
Because that day in Sao Paulo, right on the eve of the draw for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, the final three-name shortlists will be revealed in the following categories: FIFA Ballon d’Or, FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and the FIFA Men’s and Women’s Coaches of the Year. The top three goals that will vie for the FIFA Puskas Award will also be announced, as will the 15-man shortlist of forwards for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI, the final batch of candidates for this very select line-up.

To whom is the FIFA Puskas Award presented?
The Puskas Award is an annual goal-of-the-year award introduced by FIFA in 2009. Again, the selection process is a simple one. A list of the year’s top ten goals is drawn up by a panel of experts and members of FIFA’s Football Committee, with you the fans having sole say over who should win the award by voting for your favourite goal at FIFA.com. The three goals earning the most votes in the first round of polling will be announced on 29 November, with a second vote then being held to decide the winner. 
*Click on the link on the right to watch all ten goals and vote for your favourite. All the goals were scored between November 2011 and the end of October 2012.

What is the FIFA/FIFPro World XI?
This award came into being when FIFA joined forces with FIFPro, which organised its own World XI player award between 2005 and 2008. The best 11 footballers of the year in each position are voted for by more than 50,000 professional footballers from all over the world, with the 55 nominees being revealed in four different phases, starting with goalkeepers, continuing with defenders and then midfielders, and ending with the announcement of the candidate forwards on 29 November.

The star-studded 2011 team looked like this: Iker Casillas (goalkeeper); Maicon, Lucio, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol (defenders); Wesley Sneijder, Andres Iniesta and Xavi (midfielders), Lionel Messi, David Villa and Cristiano Ronaldo (forwards).
*Correctly predict this year’s star line-up with the FIFA/FIFPro World XI 2012 Predictor at FIFA.com and you will enter our Grand Draw, with some fantastic prizes up for grabs.

What are the criteria for the FIFA Presidential Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award?
Presented since 2001, the FIFA Presidential Award is bestowed on a footballing figure or institution that has made an outstanding yet selfless contribution to the game. Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson took receipt of this prestigious accolade last year, on the 25th anniversary of his appointment at Old Trafford.  

Meanwhile, as its name suggests, the Fair Play Award pays tribute to institutions and people who have distinguished themselves through their sportsmanship and respect for the spirit of the game. In 2011 the award was presented to the Japanese Football Association in recognition of the exceptional achievements of the country’s women’s team, all in a year marked by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.

Where can I watch the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala?
Just as it was last year, the event will be broadcast live across most of the world, though you also have the option of following the Gala free of charge at FIFA.com, which will also be publishing exclusive interviews with the winners, showing what goes on backstage and unveiling a new application featuring the latest photos, comments and tweets.