Voice 1: ‘The Golden Ball’ trophy, handed out annually by the French magazine France Football. To be awarded this honour means you are the very best player in the world.
Voice 2: France Football awarded the first ‘Ballon D’Or’ back in 1956. In its 60-year history, the award has undergone a few changes. Before 1995, it was also known as ‘The European Footballer of the Year’ award. The rules were changed in 1995 to include non-European players who played for European clubs; that year the accolade was given to George Weah, an African footballer.
Voice 1: Another big change occurred in 2010, when the ‘Ballon D’Or’ was merged with ‘FIFA’s World Player of the Year’ and renamed the ‘FIFA Ballon D’Or’. This lasted until last year, when FIFA, the world’s top football organisation decided to award its own prize for the world’s best player. The ‘Ballon D’Or’ returned to being a separate award, keeping the 1995 rule change and the further change of 2007 that put players from all around the world in competition for the honour.
Voice 2: The ‘Ballon D’Or’ was the brainchild of French sports writer Gabriel Hanot. Then and now, the top player is voted for by football journalists. Football fever at the time was exploding in France, and newspapers were starting to include other European teams in their coverage. Hanot thought it would be a great boost for the game if an award was given to the European male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year. But the inaugural winner wasn't from one of Europe’s most popular teams. It was the legendary English footballer Stanley Matthews, of a small club called Blackpool!
Voice 1: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo beat rival Lionel Messi to win the ‘Ballon D’Or’ of 2016. Ronaldo had also won the trophy in 2008, 2013 and 2014. This fourth win puts the Real Madrid player one behind Barcelona’s Messi who won the trophy in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. Sports journalists from 173 countries cast their vote this year to select the winner. Ronaldo received 745 points against Messi’s 316.
Voice 2: Ronaldo had been the favourite to win last year’s ‘Ballon D’Or’, and doing so completed an incredible year for the football star. With Real Madrid, he’s won the Champions League and the European Supercup. A fourth ‘Ballon D’Or’ was the icing on the cake for Ronaldo, for whom victory is an obsession.
Voice 1: To coincide with the 60th anniversary of ‘Le Ballon D’Or’, France Football reevaluated the awards presented before 1995, when only European players were eligible. Twelve of the thirty-nine trophies awarded during this period, France Football admitted, would have gone to non-European players like Pelé and Maradona if the rules had allowed. To honour these two giants of football, France Football awarded them each an honorary ‘Ballon D’Or’ in 2013 and 1996 respectively.