Lionel Messi, Abby Wambach, Vicente del Bosque, Pia Sundhage, Miroslav Stoch and Franz Beckenbauer were bestowed with individual awards at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala for 2012. They were not, however, the only people praised by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter as he addressed the audience during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.
Kevin-Prince Boateng recently led his AC Milan team-mates off the pitch after he was subjected to racist taunts during a friendly away to Pro Patria. Blatter saluted the Ghanaian midfielder’s bravery, though he warned a solution must be found to prevent similar incidents.
The FIFA President said: “If a player walks off the pitch because he has been racially abused, just as Kevin-Prince Boateng did, it is a strong and courageous signal, a way of saying, ‘This has gone this far, but it goes no further'. That is praiseworthy.
“But it cannot be the solution in the long term. We have to find other sustainable solutions to tackle the problem at its roots. Otherwise, such stands will be made in isolation and lost in the heat of general controversy. Football must not separate people. Football must bring people together.”
It is also a source of joy and hope to those affected by conflict. Indeed, governments of countries in which war zones exist or have existed use the sport as a means to unite and inspire their people.
Blatter explained: “Our game is still played in places where life has come to a shuddering halt, suffocated by acts of war – in Syria, for example, whose national team won the West Asian Championship in December and where football is still being played, just as it was in Baghdad during the Iraq War, just as it was in Libya, and just as it was and is in Afghanistan. Football is the last bridge when society has broken down, but it is also the first bridge when life begins to bloom again.
“Thanks to the men and women who will be on the stage here this evening. A beautiful pass, a stunning shot into the top corner, and the trials and tribulations of daily life, as hard as they have been, are forgotten. Football is hope. Football is life.”
Many of the footballers Blatter was referring to left Zurich Kongresshaus empty-handed. The FIFA President nevertheless believes they are all champions.
"There can only be one winner – you have to accept that some people have to win and others have to lose,” he explained. “I have seen many stars come and go, but only those who had the winner’s gene truly left their mark. When I talk about a ‘winner’s gene’, I don’t mean the victories that these exceptional talents celebrated. Instead, I am talking about the quality that made them true champions: namely the ability to also accept defeat.
"It is all about respect, discipline, fair play. After all, it is easy to celebrate victory, but much harder to accept defeat with dignity. This is exactly where many supposed stars differ from the true champions we are honouring here this evening.”
Blatter concluded by expressing his satisfaction over the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala outlining the importance of enjoyment.
"Football is a great spectacle, like movies,” he said. “We have movie stars and producers here tonight to show that football is also culture. Overall, what we are showing tonight is the fascination with football, what it is bringing to the world, and bringing compliments to players and coaches.
"Enjoy every day in life, because tomorrow can only be better if you believe in football. Enjoy the game, enjoy this evening, and more importantly, enjoy life."