The snow-covered Lake City of Zurich was abuzz with football’s annual celebrations on Monday January 9, 2017. The occasion marked FIFA’s inaugural edition of gracing last season’s top global performers in the game of football for their outstanding achievements. Besides, the FIFA ceremony also announced the Puskas Award for the most beautiful goal of 2016 season and named FIFA’s team of 2016 drawn from the best players in the world. France Football’s Ballon d’Or winner Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo also claimed the top FIFA award for men, USA’s Carli Lloyd won the best women player award, Claudio Ranieri clinched the award for best men’s coach and Silvia Neid was adjudged as the best women’s coach. FIFA’s Best Football Awards were based on the results of a combined voting process that was extended to public participation for the first time ever. 50% weightage was given to the votes by captains and head coaches from national teams all around the globe while the remaining 50% votes were split between an online public ballot of football fans and a select group of representatives from the world media. An independent observer Price Waterhouse Coopers of Switzerland supervised and monitored the entire voting procedure for each award.
Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo garnered 34.54% of total votes and was chosen as the best male footballer ahead of Argentina and FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who secured 26.42% of all votes. France International and Atletico Madrid player Antoine Griezmann was third with 7.53% of total votes. Thus, Ronaldo’s closest challenger was Messi but he was quite far behind this year. The two top players have been maintaining their lofty status in the game by ruling men’s football for nearly a decade now.
USA International Carli Lloyd, who plays for American Club Houston Dash, bagged the best FIFA women’s player award with 20.68% votes. Brazilian and Swedish Club FC Rosengard player Marta, who has won several top awards in the past, finished behind Carli Lloyd with 16.60% votes while German International and Bayern Munich star Melanie Behringer was third with 12.34% votes. For Carli, who tied the nuptial knot with childhood sweetheart and professional golfer Brian Rollins, less than 2 months ago, the FIFA award was another sweet wedding present. Carli also won the 2015 award while Marta had been named as the top women’s player for 5 years in a row from 2006 to 2010.
Coach of Italy’s national team and Leicester City, Claudio Ranieri bagged the award for the best men’s coach. Ranieri, who guided Leicester to English Premier League title last year, captured 22.6% of total votes to leave Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane at second place with 16.54%. The close third was Portugal’s Fernando Santos, who led his nation to Euro 2016 glory, got 16.24% votes.
The award for FIFA’s best women coach was nearly decided, when Silvia Neid led Germany to the Rio Olympic gold in 2016. In 11 years of her reign as Germany’s coach, Neid figured in two European championships, victory in women’s World Cup and earning an Olympic bronze. The Brazil triumph was but an icing on the cake of her brilliant achievements. This was also the third time since 2010 and 2013 that Neid had been named as the best coach in women’s football by FIFA. Neid polled 29.99% of total votes ahead of US Head Coach Jill Ellis’ 16.68% votes. Sweden’s national coach Pia Sundhage was third with 16.47% votes.
FIFA Puskas Award 2016 for the most beautiful goal of the season was given to Malaysian footballer Mohd Faiz Subri. Playing for his club Penang on February 16, 2016, Subri produced an outrageously swerving free-kick in a Malaysian Super League game against Pahang. The bend in that free-kick was so great that it sailed into the goal and left everybody awestruck.
To cap the Zurich ceremony, votes from over 45000 players around the world decided a dream team for the 2016 season. The 11-men line-up included; goalkeeper Manuel Neuer; defenders Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Midfielders Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta and Forwards Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.
There were a couple of other awards at Zurich. Colombian Club Atletico Nacional were awarded the best team in FIFA Fair Play Award 2016. Nacional exhibited humanity and compassion in face of the tragic plane crash, in which Brazilian Club Chapecoense lost several budding footballers. Nacional were to play against Chapecoense in the final of the Copa Sudamericana but they insisted that the trophy be awarded to Chapecoense. In the other award of the evening, Brazil’s retiring futsal legend Alessandro Rosa Vieira was honored with the FIFA Award for an Outstanding Career.