Title Holders In Contention Once More
Thirty players from the men’s game and 26 from the women’s game are in with a chance of being named FIFA World Player or FIFA Women’s World Player for 2007 in Zurich on 17 December – including last year’s winners Fabio Cannavaro (Italy) and Marta (Brazil).
In October of this year the captains and head coaches of 208 national teams were asked to vote for the best male and female player of 2007. As in previous years, the Football Committee and the Technical and Development Committee drew up a longlist of 30 nominees for the men’s title, among them the 2006 World Player and World Cup winner with Italy, Fabio Cannavaro.
Following the upsurge in interest in women’s football prompted by the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, the women’s longlist was increased from 20 to 26 to take into account the fact that new world-class players had come to the fore during the tournament. The women’s title holder is the Brazilian magician, Marta, who was top scorer in the Women’s World Cup and was also voted player of the tournament. She is joined among the favourites by no fewer than five members of Germany’s World Cup winning team, including Birgit Prinz, who is bidding for the title for an incredible fourth time. It is also possible that the captains and coaches will opt to pay tribute to players who have enjoyed both lengthy and exceptional careers such as the USA’s Kristine Lilly. Or will Norway’s Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, who found the net six times during the World Cup, spring a surprise?
When it comes to the men, the number of potential winners is equally great. Since there was no men’s World Cup in 2007, the voters will instead have taken into account the nominees’ performances at club level. This means that the four candidates from AC Milan, Gennaro Gattuso, Kaka, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo, who lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in May, are certainly strong contenders. The youngest player to be nominated is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, an Argentinian with prodigious dribbling skills. Africa is represented by three players: Chelsea powerhouse Michael Essien (Ghana), his club team-mate Didier Drogba (Cote dlvoire) and serial nominee Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon). Once again, goalkeepers Gianluigi Buffon and Petr Cech arc among the list of the world’s 30 best players and there is certainly no doubting their ability.
The venue for the FIFA World Player Gala will once more be the Zurich Opera House and the theme of the evening, “Musical meets football”, promises to whet the appetite just as much as the list of nominees.
The prestige afforded by the title of FIFA World Player or FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year is no better illustrated than by last year’s winner Fabio Cannavaro when he said, “I was already overjoyed just to be shortlisted from 30 first-rate candidates for this prestigious title.” There is no greater honour than to be voted the best by fellow members of one’s profession.