Everything you need to know about the 2015 Ballon d'Or ceremony
The night of 11 January 2016 will see the who’s who of the football world descend in Zurich as the best footballing achievements of 2015 will be feted at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala. Awards for the best player (male and female), best goal and best coach will be given out.
Where and When
Venue: Kongresshaus – a famous concert hall in the Swiss city of Zurich
Time: 18.30 CET (23:00 IST)
Channel: Star Sports 4 (Telecast begins at 21:30 IST)
FIFA has been handing the FIFA World Player of the Year award since 1991, when Lothar Matthaus won the honour, while France Football Magazine handed over the first Ballon d’Or award in 1956. The Ballon d’Or was conceived by the then editor of France Football, Gabriel Hanot, who asked his colleagues to vote for the best European player that year. Till 1995, journalists could only vote for Europeans, but a rule change then meant that anyone could be voted for, as long as he played his club football in Europe.
Pele and Diego Maradona were never awarded the Ballon d’Or in their playing days, although both were later awarded honorarily.
In 2010 the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award were merged, with the world’s best player awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or. As ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter called it then, “The winner is football because we will have one single trophy for the best player of the world and this will be the Ballon d'Or.”
France Football expanded its panel of judges to include coaches, technical experts and journalists from across the world.
While Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or four times, others who have won it thrice include Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Cristiano Ronaldo. Other multiple winners are Franz Beckenbauer, Alfredo di Stefano, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Kevin Keegan and the Brazilian Ronaldo.
The Ballon d’Or Trophy
The Ballon d’Or is made by Mellerio dits Meller, the prestigious jewellers founded in 1613. Although football has changed much since the trophy was first awarded to Alfredo Di Stefano back in 1956, the bauble itself remains virtually the same.
It comprises two semi spheres that are formed from brass plates, which are shaped by hammering from the reverse side (a technique known in French as repoussage, deriving from the verbrepousser, meaning “to push up”).
The two parts are then welded together by a goldsmith with a blowtorch. The chaser then takes over, filling the ball with a compound material known as pitch. Using a chisel and hammer, he follows pencil lines drawn on the smooth surface of the metal to form the seams of the “ball”.
After completing his work, he empties the pitch from the ball and hands it back to the goldsmith for polishing and engraving with the FIFA Ballon d’Or logo. In the final stage of the process, the trophy is dipped in liquid gold before being fixed on a pyrite plinth.
Candidates for the 2015 awards
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are in the fray for the ninth consecutive time. Real Madrid’s Portuguese star will be vying to win the prize for the third straight year, but he is almost certain to be eclipsed on this occasion by the little Argentinian, who has led Barcelona to five trophies in 2015, to go along with a runners-up finish at the Copa America.
Also in the fray is Messi’s Barcelona teammate, Brazil’s Neymar, who is the first Brazilian to be nominated for the honour since Kaka won the award in 2007. Incidentally, the former AC Milan man will be the one presenting the award to the winner.
Women’s Player of the Year
In contention are the USA’s World Cup winning captain Carli Lloyd, Japan’s Aya Miyama and Germany’s World Cup Golden Boot winner Celia Sasic. Lloyd is the obvious choice for the award, having led her country to the world title, with a hat-trick in the final capped off by a spectacular goal from the halfway line.
Miyama led Japan to a second straight final in the World Cup, where they fell short of retaining the title they won in 2011. Sasic won the Golden Boot in the World Cup, and led her club, Frankfurt to the Champions League, before retiring from football in July.
Men’s Coach of the Year
Barcelona’s Luis Enrique is the favourite to win the award. In a stunning year for Los Cules, they won five trophies, including a treble of the La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the UEFA Champions League in Enrique’s first season in charge. The competition from Enrique will be from a former Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola and Chile’s Argentine manager Jorge Sampaoli.
Guardiola’s Bayern romped to the Bundesliga title last season but were humbled in the Champions League semi-final by the Catalan club. Sampaoli had a landmark year, as he guided Chile to a first ever Copa America title, as La Roja were crowned champions on home soil.
Women’s Coach of the Year
The award will see USA’s Jill Ellis, who overcame plenty of detractors to guide the Americans to their first world title since 1999. Mark Sampson is also in the fray, as he guided his England team to a third place finish at the World Cup – a fantastic achievement for a team that had never before won a knockout game on the biggest stage. Japan’s Norio Sasaki is also nominated as he saw his team in a second straight World Cup final, only to come up short against an inspired USA.
The award for the best goal scored in 2015 will see competition between Messi, AS Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi and Brazilian Wendell Lira. Messi’s stunning solo effort against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey final was a work of art, as he left six defenders in the wake before calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Florenzi’s goal was stunning 40-yard strike against Messi’s Barcelona. He carried the ball from his own half on the right flank, and with seemingly nowhere to go, he unleashed a stunning strike that dipped past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen into the net. Lira’s was a stunning team goal for Goianesia. After a string of passes, Lira latched on to a cute lob, before screaming a half bicycle kick into the back of the net past a stunned Atletico goalkeeper.
All in all, the stage is set, quite literally, at the Kongresshaus, as FIFA would love to deflect attention from all its misgivings to the achievers on the football pitch, who have made the beautiful game that much more enjoyable over the course of the past year.