FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrives on the pitch at the end of during the FIFA Club World Cup final football match between Spain’s Real Madrid and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on February 11, 2023. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP)
FIFA President Gianni Infantino opened the proceedings at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2022 by leading a tribute to one of the greatest players the game has ever seen – the peerless Pelé. Speaking ahead of the ceremony in Paris, and in the company of Pelé’s widow Marcia Aoki, Mr Infantino said the football world had lost an icon, but that his legacy would live on forever. “The King – O Rei – Pelé. What can we say about Pelé,” President Infantino said. “Pelé is football, Pelé is simply football. And we lost him, we miss him a lot. But Pelé is eternal, he is with us, he is always with us. He will always be with us. I would like to thank Pelé’s family for being with us here tonight. Muito obrigado pela [sua]presença. Thank you so much.”
Following President Infantino’s speech, Pelé’s widow came to the stage to receive The Best FIFA Special Award in memory of her late husband. In her acceptance speech she thanked fans, players and organisers from around the world, saying she is “grateful, grateful, grateful”. Brazil superstar and FIFA Legend Ronaldo was also on stage, and made his own tribute to Pelé, before a live performance by Brazilian artist, Seu Jorge.
In addition to the tributes paid to Pelé, the FIFA President also took time to remember two other members of the football family, who have passed away in recent months – Sini?a Mihajlovi? and Gianluca Vialli.
Before concluding, Mr Infantino also reflected on the year just gone, before looking ahead to an exciting 2023. Two years, according to the FIFA President, that were and will be, like no others. “What a year we have had; last year we just experienced the best [FIFA] World Cup ever,” President Infantino continued. “Let me thank Qatar once again! [Shukran] Qatar for hosting and welcoming the world and for uniting the world in what was an incredible event which we will never forget. “This year is also a [FIFA] World Cup year, we’ll have the FIFA Women’s World Cup later this year. in Australia and New Zealand and you are, of course, all invited to that as well.”
During the ceremony, the FIFA President also returned to the stage to present the awards to Alexia Putellas and Lionel Messi for The Best FIFA Women’s Player and The Best FIFA Men’s Player, respectively. Speaking of the latter’s achievements in 2022, who won his first FIFA World Cup in Qatar on 18 December, President Infantino recalled: “I think the best final, ever, of the best World Cup ever. Incredible drama. The whole [FIFA] World Cup was fantastic. Teams from five continents reached the knockout stage. Drama, surprises, goals, plays, the final – you cannot beat that.” Other individual winners on the night included Lionel Scaloni, who was named as The Best FIFA Men’s Coach – while England boss Sarina Wiegman picked up the women’s award for the third time.