Monday 27 February 2023, 23:45

FIFA President leads heartfelt Pelé tribute at gala event

  • Gianni Infantino leads an emotional tribute to ‘The King’ ahead of The Best FIFA Football Awards™ 2022 ceremony

  • Three-time FIFA World Cup™ winner Pelé passed away on 29 December 2022

  • Mr Infantino also presented Alexia Putellas and Lionel Messi with the top individual awards

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 - Siniša Mihajlović and Gianluca Vialli.

Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA addresses the audience during The Best FIFA Football Award

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.

IFA President Gianni Infantino with FIFA Global Fan Ambassador Adriana Lima (L) and Carlos Tula during The Best FIFA Football Awards 2022

England’s Mary Earps and Argentina’s Emiliano Martínez won the awards for best goalkeepers, while Georgian footballer Luka Lochoshvili was honoured with the FIFA Fair Play Award for his life-saving intervention during an Austrian Bundesliga match. The FIFA Puskás Award was won by amputee football star Marcin Oleksy, for his spectacular acrobatic scissor-kick strike for Warta Poznan against Stal Rzeszow. FIFA Global Fan Ambassador Adriana Lima also presented the FIFA Fan Award to Argentina fans, for their unrivalled support throughout the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ campaign – while those in attendance and watching from around the world were treated to a live duet from RedOne and Angelina Jordan.