Five non-European footballers to win Ballon d'Or
Ballon d' Or, awarded by the French football magazine France Football is the most coveted trophy in the international football Circuit. Presently, the trophy is awarded to any international footballer who has shown exemplary performances during the year. But the fun fact is that non- Europeans were not eligible for the Ballon d' Or till 1995.
One would have always wondered why the football greats Pele and Diego Maradona never won the Ballon d' Or. It is because Ballon d' Or was considered a European football recognition award by a European Magazine till 1995 when they decided to widen the scope of the players worldwide.
And, since 1995 we had 5 non- European footballers as Ballon d' Or winners 10 times. The five non-Europeans to get the coveted honor are:
# 1. Ronaldo - 1997 and 2002
Ronaldo was the first non -European to win Ballon d' Or. He was awarded two times - in 1997 and in 2002.
In 1997, he was awarded the trophy ahead of Predrag Mijatović and Zinedine Zidane. Another fun fact was that in 1996 when Ronaldo was playing for Barcelona, he lost the chance to be the Ballon d' Or winner by just one point. The eventual winner in 1996 was the Borussia Dortmund star Matthias Sammer who received 144 points ahead of Ronaldo at 143 points. That still remains as the most closely fought race for the Ballon d' Or winner
But Ballon d' Or did not elude Ronaldo for long. He received the award very next year while playing for Inter Milan in 1997 by a huge margin of votes. He came third in 1998 and later won the coveted trophy once again in 2002, this time while he was at Real Madrid, beating his countryman Roberto Carlos and the legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.