Saturday 09 January 2016, 10:52 Club winners at the Gala

After years of faithfully following the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala from home, users Roberto Valdimir Ferrari Filho and Juan Manuel Cordoba will have their dreams fulfilled this coming Monday, when they will rub shoulders with their footballing idols at the Kongresshaus in Zurich.

“The first thing I did when I found out I was going was to dig out my passport and find some friends who wanted to come with me,” Juan Manuel told Both he and Roberto earned their invitations to the Gala, which include flights for them and their companions and a three-night stay in Zurich, courtesy of their respective victories in the FIFA Ultimate Trivia and FIFA World Leagues Predictor competitions.

Roberto, who will be making the journey from Brazil to Switzerland with his father, racked up a record points total in taking the Predictor honours. “I can’t describe how happy I felt when I realised nobody could catch me, but I kept it to myself and it wasn’t until I got official confirmation that I shared the news with my family and friends,” he explained.

“It was a simple decision for me to ask my father to come with me,” he added. “He has played a big part in making me the sports lover I am, and it’s great for me to give him the chance to take part in an event as big as this.”

A regular participant in the Club’s competitions over the last couple of years, Ultimate Trivia champion Juan Manuel, who will be travelling from his native Argentina with a friend, is making his first trip to Europe. “I’ve been a Club member since March 2013. I love the World Cup and all its stats and I love taking part in trivia quizzes too,” he said. “I play one game after another. I like them all.”

Our two winners are both looking forward to the big day. “I’ve always followed the galas.” said Roberto. “My biggest highlight so far came in 2007, when Kaka won. He was playing for AC Milan at the time, but he came up through the ranks at my club, Sao Paolo, and he’s an idol there.”

Kaka was the last Brazilian to make the final three before the appearance of Neymar on this year’s shortlist. “He’s uniquely talented,” said Roberto of the Barcelona star, though he believes the award will go elsewhere. “There’s no doubt the three of them are the best players of their generation, but I think (Lionel) Messi is still the best. He’s had a spectacular season, and if I could, I’d tell him that it’s a pleasure to watch his amazing performances and to see him make history.”

Juan Manuel is also hoping to meet the four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner: “If I could get to meet one player, it would be Messi. I’d tell him that he just needs to win the World Cup to be the greatest of all time, because he’s already got an Olympic gold, an U-20 World Cup winner’s medal and a Brazil 2014 runners-up medal. And I’d also tell him to play at the 2016 Olympics so we can win the gold again.”

It remains to be seen if the duo can catch up with their hero, but whatever happens in Zurich on Monday, the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala is sure to be an unforgettable experience for them both.