If there was one thing lacking from Diego Forlan’s stellar performance here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ it was a piece of silverware, particularly after the deadly striker just missed out on clinching the adidas Golden Shoe for the competition’s top scorer. No matter, the inspirational Uruguayan No10 instead made off with the coveted adidas Golden Ball – awarded to the finest player at this year’s finals on South African soil.
Forlan thus becomes the fourth South American to claim the prize, following in the footsteps of Argentina’s Diego Maradona (1986) and Brazilian duo Romario (1994) and Ronaldo (1998). Just minutes after learning of his award, the Atletico Madrid hitman spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Diego, how does it feel to have won the Golden Ball?
Diego Forlan: It’s as great as it is unexpected. I never even imagined something like this, nor did I have my sights set on it. As I’m a striker, I perhaps could have seen myself chasing the Golden Shoe, and in fact I came close. That would have been more normal. But to go from that to winning the prize for the best player... I’m enjoying it and I’m delighted, but I’m very aware that it’s the result of the spectacular tournament the team has had. It’s another reward for this positive period for Uruguayan football.
How did you find out you’d won?
To be honest, after I was nominated I decided to wait and see what happened, especially as there were rumours that I might win but nobody was revealing anything. Then I got a message from a friend in Buenos Aires which said 'Congratulations, you’ve won the Golden Ball’. Then my agent called me and confirmed it. I started getting more calls and suddenly all my squad-mates had charged into my room, and before I knew it they’d chucked me into the hotel swimming pool!
And yet you’re dedicating it to the people who did that to you...
It was incredible how they all came to my room to congratulate me. The fact that my team-mates and a lot of people back home in Uruguay pinned their hopes on me, and I was able to repay that faith out on the pitch while being just another member of the team, makes me feel very happy. I’d also like to highlight those lads who didn’t play much or didn’t feature at all. Those guys make up the backbone of the squad and this award is for them too.
Do you ever worry receiving this kind of recognition will go to your head?
I’ve won other awards during my career and I’m very grateful, but I don’t let them stop my feet from staying on the ground. I’ve got parents who taught me key values and brothers and sisters who help me stay on the right path. Everything is the result of hard work, so I’ll keep working to try and improve.
The fact that my team-mates and a lot of people back home in Uruguay pinned their hopes on me, and I was able to repay that faith out on the pitch while being just another member of the team, makes me feel very happy.
Does this prize help make up for Uruguay not finishing on the podium?
I’m very happy about this award and the goals I scored, but to be honest I’m heading home a little sad because, having watched the Final, it hit me how close we were to playing in it. Losing the semi-final was a really cruel blow, which took me a couple of days to get over and which I still find hard to swallow.
Are you looking forward to having the Golden Ball in your hands?
I’ve not had much time to find out about that, but I gather that they’ll give me it in Zurich. I must admit that I’d have liked to have flown back to Uruguay with it. There’s no doubt it would have been the icing on the cake at the party they’re waiting to throw for us back in our country.
If you keep picking up awards, you’ll end up with no room on your mantelpiece soon...
It’ll definitely look good next to my two Pichichi awards for top scoring in the Spanish league! (laughs) We’ll find a good place for it, I’m sure of that.
Finally, were Spain worthy champions?
No doubt about it. They played the best football over the course of the tournament, they managed to bounce back quickly from their defeat against Switzerland and they always looked to take the initiative. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate their players and coaching staff. Let’s hope one day it happens to us too!