FIFA hosted their annual The Best Football Awards in London on Monday, with a plethora of football’s best talents in attendance for an evening of prizegiving. Six major individual awards were handed out, in addition to the Puskas Award and the naming of the men’s and women’s FIFPRO Best XIs. All of the awards were handed out by women, with the ceremony dedicated to women’s sport.
During the ceremony hosted by Reshmin Chowdhury and Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi was named as The Best Men’s Player of 2023. The Argentinian was unable to attend the awards in person, and did not record an acceptance speech ahead of time.
Aitana Bonmatí was the recipient of the women’s equivalent award, after also enjoying a trophy-filled season with both Barcelona Femení and the Spanish national team. Having already sealed a multitude of domestic trophies, Bonmatí was influential as Barcelona won the UEFA Women’s Champions League and was voted as the Best Player at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which she won with Spain.
Bonmatí recalled during her acceptance speech that ‘a couple of weeks ago, when 2023 came to an end, I was nostalgic because it’s been an exceptional and unique year that I will remember for all my life.’
‘Starting out 2024 by collecting this award is something I’m very proud of,’ she said, ‘but as I’ve said before, I owe this award to all the teams I’ve played with. I will always be thankful for those of you who never fail me: my family, my friends and everyone who has supported me.’Embed from Getty Images
She rounded off her on-stage speech by adding that ‘finally, I would like to congratulate all the nominees and I am proud to be part of a generation of women who are changing the rules of the game and the world.’
The Catalan star completed the majority of her mixed zone activities in Catalan, but offered a number of answers in English. ‘I don’t know if [what happened after the Women’s World Cup Final] is important for this [award],’ she offered honestly, ‘but I would like to say that this year we won on the pitch and outside of the pitch as well.’
‘I wanted to say that as a team, we had some issues and we come through [them]. We work together to keep fighting for an equal world, being more powerful and have the same chances [as] men.’
Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola was also recognised at the ceremony, being named as The Best Men’s Coach of 2023 for his role in the Citizens’ success. He fended off competition from Napoli’s Luciano Spalletti and Internazionale’s Simone Inzaghi.
During his acceptance speech, Guardiola insisted that he ‘will never forget what [City Football Group] have done for me, so thank you so much.’Embed from Getty Images
‘On behalf of me and my backroom staff, thank you so much to our players for what they have done for our club. Winning or losing it doesn’t matter, living with them has been an incredible pleasure.’
‘Thank you to my dad, he is 92 years old and I am so happy he is here – of course to my brother and my sisters and my three kids, my wife.’
‘It is a dream come true, we could not expect years ago to be here winning the treble with Manchester City.’
Sarina Wiegman was voted as The Best Women’s Coach of 2023, after her England side won the inaugural women’s Finalissima and reached the final of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Dutchwoman saw off competition from Emma Hayes and Jonatan Giráldez to claim the award for a fourth time.
‘I’m very privileged and very honoured to be here again,’ she said during her on-stage acceptance speech.
‘Thank you to the FA for the big support we get, thanks to all the staff for the great achievement we made and thanks to all the players. Lots of things were thrown in front of us and we did very well. I’d also like to thank my management who take a lot out of my hands so I can focus on the football.’Embed from Getty Images
In a show of class, Wiegman also found time to praise her fellow finalists. ‘Emma and Jonatan, congratulations on the big achievement you had. You do very well in the women’s game, you do very well in the women’s game and thank you for the collaboration we have,’ she said.
In the mixed zone after the ceremony had concluded, Wiegman added that ‘the world has seen England and what we’ve done after the back of the EUROs is really hard to keep performances at a high level.’
‘We had some very huge challenges and I think it showed that the support from the FA, how the staff collaborate together, and then the players who step up all the time, that’s what brings me the award tonight.’
FIFA announced during the ceremony that there will be a women’s version of the Puskas Award launching next year, named after Brazilian icon Marta. It brings an end to the mixed-gender award, which Wiegman explained she had mixed feelings about.
‘I enjoy having the goals together, female and male, but she’s such an inspiration and she’s such a huge personality in the women’s game. It’s so well deserved, so I think it’s really good that they’ve done this.’
Continuing Manchester City’s success at Monday’s awards show, Ederson took home the award for The Best Men’s Goalkeeper of 2023. The Brazilian shotstopper was pivotal to Manchester City’s successes throughout the 2022/23 season.
‘I would like to thank my team for the wonderful year we had, for the incredible work. In particular, thanks to the group of goalkeepers, because we have done an incredible job,’ said the Brazilian.
‘It was a year of successes for me. I had to give up a lot and to dedicate myself greatly to be able to achieve so many things, and today I’m very happy to win this trophy.’Embed from Getty Images
Mary Earps was the recipient of the equivalent women’s award after an impressive season with England and Manchester United. During her on-stage acceptance speech, the goalkeeper joked that ‘when I made [the FIFPRO XI], I thought that was me done for the year!’
‘First of all, I want to say thank you to my teammates. Without you, I would not be able to be on this stage. Thank you to all my coaches, on a serious level at England and [Manchester] United, I’m just blown away.’
‘I talk about it alot that it’s not been the easiest journey to get here and some would say I took the scenic route – I had to wait a while for this success but looking back at it, it all makes sense.’
‘If you’re struggling, and you’re going through hell, keep going – it’s never too late to be who you are. I think 2023 showed us that when we come together and speak out on injustices, we can change the world.’
The England shotstopper offered further insight in the mixed zone, singing the Lionesses’ praises as she assesses the players within the World XI. ‘The team is so incredibly talented, I think that’s why there are so many Lionesses in the World XI,’ she said.Embed from Getty Images
‘I’m incredibly privileged to be able to play football with them and work with them. They’re a special, special group and long may it continue.’
‘I don’t even think I can get my head quite around [being the first women’s goalkeeper to retain the award]. It’s a huge honour. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s expected, I’d say I still had a great amount of shock this year. I think it’s difficult because you don’t want to be speaking and going on and on and boring people about your life, but these kind of nights mean a great deal especially when you’ve been through not-so-easy times.’
‘I tried to reference that tonight but most importantly what I didn’t mention when I was up there, because I was so nervous and forgot my words because I was thinking that my night was done so I was tripping over my tongue, was I didn’t thank the incredible people that I have in my life – the family and friends that I’ve got around me.’
‘I think it’s really, really important what Marta said, although I didn’t understand everything because my Portuguese is very limited – but what I could pick up from my Spanish knowledge was, I think, spot on in terms of being a voice on and off the pitch.’
Named by FIFA as the Best Women’s Player on no less than six occasions, Marta was celebrated once again at London’s awards ceremony on Monday night as she lifted the FIFA Special Award. It was also revealed that from next year, there will be a women’s version of the Puskas Award launching – and it will be known as the Marta Award.
‘It’s always difficult to stand on this stage and not get emotional. I was fortunate enough to receive The Best [FIFA Women’s] Player award a few times. I think it’s much easier to talk about that award, as you will always discuss what you’ve done that year, you will thank the staff, your family,’ she said during her speech on-stage.
‘Without a doubt this [trophy] is much more special. It’s difficult to even find the words. I hope that all women can see a promising future, which is not just focused on football, but on any activity out there. What we seek on a daily basis is to make the world better for everyone. To seek equality, respect, and I leave it to all those who have the power to transmit this message through what they do.’Embed from Getty Images
‘I want to thank FIFA and the football community for receiving this award while still alive, active and playing. It serves as motivation to continue evolving, as we are always learning. In Olympic [Football] Tournament year, maybe I will play one more and, who knows, see if I will continue playing.’
During the post-event mixed zone activities, Marta offered additional insight in both Portuguese and English. ‘It’s really important [that women’s football is being recognised,’ she explained, ‘because this award has come from like the boss of soccer, FIFA. When the [recognition] comes from the top, the others need to follow so I hope to see women in every professional area have space to do what they want to do.’
Alessia Russo was named in the FIFPRO Best Women’s XI, although she missed out on an individual accolade. In the mixed zone after the ceremony had concluded, Russo reminded journalists that ‘we never really stand still in football – you’re always wanting what’s next and I think things like tonight make you realise what a special night it was and how lucky I am to be here.’
‘I think [the introduction of the Marta Award] is incredible, I think it’s a really cool touch and to honour one of the greats is so special. It was nice to honour her tonight because she’s had an incredible career.’Embed from Getty Images
Despite not picking up an individual accolade at the awards ceremony, Manchester City and England defender Alex Greenwood was named in the FIFPRO Best Women’s XI. Speaking in the mixed zone about her inclusion, the 30-year-old said: ‘[I’m] extremely proud. Being nominated by your fellow professionals is always the highest honour. We play against each other week in, week out and in the major tournaments so for them to recognise me and be a part of that is something I’m really proud of.’
Aitana Bonmatí and Mary Earps both spoke openly about the need for change within women’s football and wider society, which Greenwood agreed is necessary. ‘[It was] really powerful, I think it’s something that we need to keep talking about, keep speaking about and I think what they said tonight was definitely true,’ she said.