New Ballon d’Or: FIFA, France Football agree to combine two most prestigious player awards

Monday, July 5, 2010

Two most prestigious player awards to be combined

JOHANNESBURG — The world’s best soccer players can start buying smaller trophy cases.

The two most prestigious player of the year awards, Europe’s Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s world player of the year, are being combined into a single honor beginning next year. The new award will be called the Ballon d’Or, or Golden Ball, and the winner will be selected by journalists, coaches and captains from FIFA’s 208 national members.

“From January of next year we will have one single trophy for the best player in the world,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Monday in announcing the four-year deal with France Football.

FIFA’s world player of the year award for women also will get a new name, Blatter said, but it has yet to be determined.

FIFA and France Football also will create new awards for the best coach and best technical director, and continue selecting a world’s best starting lineup of 11 players. That honor was created in conjunction with FIFPro, the international umbrella group of players’ unions.

France created the European player of the year award in 1956, and it was eventually opened up to players on any club in the world. FIFA began presenting its award in 1991.

AFRICAN OVERHAUL: Africa’s soccer federations are being criticized by former world player of the year George Weah following the continent’s disappointing showing at the World Cup.

Of the six African teams, only Ghana progressed out of the group stage, eventually losing to Uruguay on a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals.

“We saw Ghana be the best, but the rest that came were not prepared. They were not ready. They performed poorly,” Weah said Monday. “We should go back to the drawing board to rectify the mistakes. … We have the talent and desire, but if we don’t encourage players there will be more setbacks.”

It also is time for African coaches to be given a chance at the international level, Weah said. Algeria’s Rabah Saadane was the only African coach at this year’s World Cup. Ghana was coached by a Serbian, Milovan Rajevac. Carlos Alberto Parreira, a Brazilian, coached South Africa. Cameroon was led by Paul Le Guen of France. Ivory Coast (Sven-Goran Eriksson) and Nigeria (Lars Lagerback) both had Swedish coaches.

“They (African coaches) are not being given the confidence, they are not being encouraged,” Weah said.

“The priority of African authorities is not to trust in junior coaches,” Weah added, pointing out that Sellas Tetteh, who coached Ghana to the Under-20 World Cup title last year, was not part of the senior national team’s setup.

Weah said African authorities lacked belief in local coaches.

“Instead, they pay somebody that doesn’t have the mentality of the African players,” he said.

DON’T GO CHANGING: Germany coach Joachim Loew will keep wearing his lucky blue V-neck sweater.

The fashion-conscious coach insists he’s not superstitious. But after sporting the sweater for Germany’s victories over England and Argentina, his staff and players have asked him to wear it for Wednesday’s semifinal against Spain.

“The coaching staff want me to wear it because we always score four goals when I wear it,” Loew said Monday.

With Loew wearing the sweater under a dark suit jacket, Germany beat England 4-1 and then routed Argentina 4-0.

“I don’t know how many blue sweaters he has, but I hope he has one or two left in his suitcase,” midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said.

BIG FAN: Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg has found at least one player more deserving of the goalkeeping award at the World Cup — Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

Stekelenburg sent his Ajax teammate a text message saying that “even now he already is the best keeper of the tournament,” the Dutch paper De Telegraaf reported on Monday.

Suarez was sent off for a deliberate handball on the line that denied Ghana a winning goal in the last seconds of Friday’s quarterfinal. Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing spot kick, and Uruguay advanced on penalties.

Because of the handball, Suarez is suspended for Tuesday’s semifinal against the Netherlands.

will not be displayed