With football fans around the globe anxiously awaiting the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup on Sunday, the first winner has already been crowned, with Lukas Podolski selected as the Gillette Best Young Player by FIFA's Technical Study Group for his key role in Germany's performance on their way to the semi-finals of the 2006 event. Former German international (150 caps) and football icon Lothar Matthäus, the patron of this newest FIFA award, personally handed the trophy over to the best youngster of the tournament during a press conference at Berlin's Olympiastadion.
This coveted honour for players aged 21 and under is a FIFA award in which the fans had an opportunity to submit their vote on www.FIFAworldcup.com for the shortlist of six players together with FIFA's Technical Study Group. The six finalists were Lukas Podolski (Germany), Luis Valencia (Ecuador), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cesc Fabregas (Spain) and Tranquillo Barnetta (Switzerland). "Lukas Podolski was instrumental in the German attack and forged a great partnership with Miroslav Klose. Together they scored eight out of their 11 goals," explained Holger Osieck, Head of FIFA's Technical Study Group, about the selection.
The final decision by the Technical Study Group, a FIFA-appointed group of 13 top football experts including Andy Roxburgh, Roy Hodgson and Roger Milla, was based on seven pre-defined criteria: exceptional skills, youthful and refreshing playing style, creativity and inspiration, tactical maturity and efficiency, fan recognition as a result of entertaining performances, role models for young players and positive attitude, namely fair play.
The FIFA World Cup has a tradition of being the launch pad for many great careers and the tournament is constantly illuminated by youngsters who are sometimes unknown to a global audience pre-event. The 2006 event has proven this with impressive performances by young players, among them this year's Gillette Best Young Player, Podolski. With this award, FIFA wants to recognise outstanding achievements and courage shown by young players as it takes more than just talent to become the best young player. This honour will stay with the winner forever as his first FIFA World Cup record.
Fans can find more information on the Gillette Best Young Player award on FIFAworldcup.com, including video clips in a special section on rising superstars, both past and present. This includes a detailed analysis and profile on the first Best Young Player in World Cup history: Lukas Podolski.