Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Football and Rugby Player of the Year Awards

Two of the most coveted sets of awards in professional sport were announced recently as both Rugby Union and European Football celebrated the best players of the past year. At the weekend Paris was the venue for the International Rugby Board (IRB) Awards. Hosted at the Pavillon d'Armenonville, this prestigious ceremony was attended by some of the great names of rugby's past and present including IRB Awards panellists Gavin Hastings, Michael Jones, Fabien Galthie and John Eales, British Lions Manager Bill Beaumont and former All Black captain Colin Meads. All Black player Daniel Carter was named IRB Player of the Year while his New Zealand teammates were honoured with the Team of the Year Award. All Blacks coach Graham Henry also picked up the Coach of the Year Award. Among other awards announced at the event were IRB Under-21 Player of the Year and IRB Under-19 Player of the Year Awards, which went to Australia's Tatafu Polota-Nau and New Zealand's Isaia Toeava respectively. The IRB Sevens Team of the Year was presented to current Sevens Rugby World Cup champions Fiji, with New Zealand's Orene Ai'i named as Sevens Player of the Year. Some notable honours were also announced at the IRB Awards: the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service went to former Wallaby Peter Crittle, while administrator Sir Tasker Watkins was presented with the IRB Chairman's Award. The Spirit of Rugby Award was presented to the former French forward Jean Pierre Rives. Paris was also the venue as the soccer world honoured its players on Monday with the announcement of the 2005 European Footballer of the Year. This prestigious award, which includes the gilt-plated 'Ballon D'or' trophy, was presented to the Brazilian player Ronaldinho. The Barcelona midfielder is the 50th player to be named European Footballer of the Year in the awards which are run by the magazine France Football. Winners are selected by a poll of soccer journalists from each of European football's 52 association members. Two English players, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, were voted second and third respectively. In 1995 the eligibility for the European Footballer of the Year Award was changed to allow players from any nation to be eligible, as long as they played for a European team. Since this change, five of the ten awards have gone to non-European players, starting with George Weah in 1995 and including the Brazilians Ronaldo (winner in both 1997 and 2002) and Rivaldo.