‘Cry Baby’ Had The Last Laugh
Named in honour of former US President Ronald Reagan, his father’s favourite actor, the Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Fifa Ballon d’Or award for the second time in his life. Known as ‘Cry Baby’ Ronaldo also won the 2008 Ballon d’Or for his performances as a Manchester United player (the only Portuguese to play for Man Utd). but since then his great rival Argentina’s Lionel Messi walked off with the award four times in a row while Ronaldo finished as a runner-up on three of those occasions.
The real contest to win 2013 award was between Ronaldo, Messi and France’s Franck Ribery. Ribery won the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup with Bayern last season, before adding the European Supercup and Club World Cup before the turn of the year. Messi, on the contrary dropped below his own high standards in the last year, averaging mere a goal per game and winning only his sixth Primera Division crown with Barcelona. But, he was hoping to collect his fifth straight Ballon d’Or as well. Ironically, it was Ribery on whom people put their money to win the 2013 Ballon d’Or.
From its inception in 1956 until 2010, Ballon d’Or was awarded to the best player in Europe while the FIFA World Player of the Year award inaugurated in 1991, ended in 2009 when it was incorporated into the Ballon d’Or. The first ever Ballon d’Or prix d’honneur was awarded to Brazilian player Pelé.
Ronaldo won with 27.99% of the votes, Messi was second with 24.72% while Ribery was third with 23.36%. After wining he said: “I felt immensely proud and happy when I realised I’d won. Winning an award like that requires a lot of dedication and hard work, and is the accumulation of many hours’ toil. I really wanted to win the Ballon d’Or for a second time, so receiving it from two legends like Pele and Platini is a privilege. Now I hope I can do it all again next year and claim my third.”
From his learning years Ronaldo started showcasing the talent of becoming one of the greatest players in the world. After starting out with a small club Clube Futebol Andorinha in his hometown Madeira, Ronaldo joined local outfit Nacional before taking on the biggest stage of his young life at 11. That challenge prepared him to leave his home island and he went to Portugal all on his own to join Sporting Clube de Portugal’s famous academy.
Ronaldo worked very hard on his game and created history at the Lisbon club by becoming the first player ever to be selected for their Under-16, Under-17, Under-18, Reserve and first teams in the same season. He introduces himself in a competitive debut for Os Leões by scoring twice and since then he never looked back.
The then 18-year-old Ronaldo turned in such a compelling performance in a match to inaugurate Estadio Jose de Alvalade that Manager Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced he had found David Beckham’s successor. The Portuguese displayed tremendous run of goal scoring in England and such was his form for United that he was taken by Real Madrid for a world record price in 2009.
“In the great sweep of history, there are few names that stand out. But when we think of football, there is one name that leaps out above all others. No player has had such an influence on the game. No one has inspired so many to play. His legacy speaks to us all. His verve and skill were timeless. His creativity limitless, his good nature boundless,” said the Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
Ronaldo scored 69 goals (more than Messi and Ribery’s combined 65) for Real Madrid and Portugal in 2013. His sensational hat trick against Sweden in a decisive World Cup playoff was the defining individual performance of the year. The award comes in a season in which he won nothing with either club or country, an unusual situation for a Ballon d’Or winner.
The tearful 28-year-old Real Madrid and Portugal star, said: “There are no words to describe how I feel. I’m delighted I want to thank all my team-mates, all my family in the room. Those who know me know how many sacrifices I made to win this reward. I want to thank all those who had kept faith in me and I want to speak again about (recently deceased Portugal legend) Eusebio and (recently deceased former South African president) Madiba (Nelson Mandela) and pay tribute to them one last time.”
Bayern’s Jupp Heynckes, who retired following their historic treble in May, won the coach’s award. German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was named women’s Ballon d’Or winner while Germany coach Silvia Neid won the women’s coach award. A special honorary Ballon d’Or was given to Brazilian legend Pele, who never qualified for the award during his playing career as he never plied his trade in European club football.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic won the Ferenc Puskas best goal award for his stunning, acrobatic over-head kick from 40 yards for Sweden in a friendly match against England. Former IOC president Jacques Rogge was given the president’s prize for a “remarkable personality in sport”.
The Fifa/Fifpro World XI 2013 Team was also named and featured the Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the defenders Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves, the midfielders Iniesta, Xavi and Ribéry and the forwards Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo.
By Sorabh Aggarwal