Kaka, Pele And Marta – Brazilian Hat Trick
Kaka and Marta are the FIFA World Player and FIFA Women’s World Player for 2007, respectively. Brazil’s triumph at the FIFA World Player Gala at the Zurich Opera House on 17 December was completed by the greatest footballer of all time – Pele – who received the FIFA Presidential Award.
With his wife Caroline at his side, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite was grinning at the gala at the Zurich Opera House on 17 December like a child for whom Christmas had come early. 2007 was certainly a bumper year for the man better known as Kaka following triumphs with AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup and after also being voted the winner of the Ballon d’Orin a poll of football journalists. The icing on the cake came when the vast majority of national team coaches and captains of 160 countries chose the 25-year-old attacking midfielder as FIFA World Player for 2007, ahead of Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal).
“This award is a dream come true,” said Kaka. “It is every footballer’s dream to be honoured in this way by national coaches and colleagues.”
Kaka polled 1,047 votes – more than fellow first-time nominees Messi (504) and Ronaldo (426) put together. Seldom in the 16-year history of the FIFA World Player awards had there been so clear a victor.
Kaka is the fifth Brazilian winner of the accolade, following in the footsteps of Romario (1994), Ronaldo (1996, 1997 and 2002), Rivaldo (1999) and Ronaldinho (2004 and 2005). Sharing in Kaka’s joy was none other than his legendary countryman Pele. The FIFA Player of the Century, three-time world champion and scorer of more than 1,000 goals, to mention but a few of his achievements, proudly presented Kaka with his trophy. “To receive my award from Pele and be praised by him is the ultimate accolade,” said Kaka.
Minutes earlier, Pele had himself stood in the glittering limelight of the world-famous Zurich Opera House to accept the
FIFA Presidential Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to football from the hands of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and English footballing legend Sir Bobby Charlton. The audience of nigh-on 1,000, including 150 media representatives, gave Pele a standing ovation and lengthy applause which moved the 67-year-old to tears.
BRACE FOR MARTA
There were also awards in store for fellow Brazilians Marta and Buru. Whereas Buru, Germany’s Toni Kroos and Argentina’s Sergio Aguero were presented with diplomas acclaiming them as the best players of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2007, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 and the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007, respectively, Marta picked up the FIFA Women’s World Player award for the second year running.
The 21-year-old magician, who was best player and top scorer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, polled 988 votes from 137 countries, clearly relegating the 2003, 2004 and 2005 winner, Birgit Prinz of Germany (507), and fellow Brazilian Cristiane (150) to the runners-up spots.
“MES QUE UN CLUB”
The 60-minute broadcast hosted by Austrian Arabella Kiesbauer and Swiss Rainer Maria Salzgeber was shown in around 140 countries and was embellished with a variety of musical highlights. Special mention should also be made of the FIFA Fair Play Award won by Barcelona, a club that has traditionally rejected lucrative shirt sponsorship deals and whose scarlet-and-blue shirts have carried the UNICEF logo since 2006. The Catalan club, whose president Joan Laporta accepted the Fair Play Award from Lord Sebastian Coe, will donate around EUR 7.5 million to HIV/AIDS projects run by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund over a five-year period.
Through this gesture, the club is able to successfully live up to its slogan “Mes que un club” (more than a club).