Luis Figo King of Football

This is the first time that a Portuguese football (soccer) player has been elected Player of the Year. 130 National Team Coaches voted for Luis Figo in Zurich on Monday.

Luis Figo, who plays for Real Madrid in the Spanish League, beat Manchester United’s David Beckham into second place. Figo’s team-mates Raul Gonzalez and Frenchman Zinnedine Zidane were third and fourth, respectively, while the Brazilian Rivaldo (FC Barcelona) was fifth.

In the last five years, three Brazilians have won the award (Rivaldo, in 1999 and Ronaldinho in !996 and 1997) and Zinnedine Zidane twice, in 1998 and 2000. The fact that real Madrid could produce three nominees in the same year proves the value of the squad.

Luis Filipe Madeira Caeiro FIGO was born on 4th November, 1972 in Almada, a city on the south bank of the River Tagus, facing Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. He began his career when he was still a schoolboy in the local team “Os pastilhas” (The Bubble Gum) and in 1990 was picked up by one of the main Portuguese football clubs, Sporting Clubs de Portugal, which is the eternal rival of Benfica and more recently, FC Porto, from the north, for the Portuguese Football Championship.

In 1995, he was transferred to FC Barcelona in Spain, where he played for five years until his multi-million dollar transfer to Real Madrid in 2000. He appeared on the international scene with the Portuguese Under-20s, who won the World Youth Championship in Riyadh, 1989. This team went on to repeat the title in 1991, in Lisbon and is the basis of the Portuguese National team today.

An attacking midfield player, he has played 79 times for the Senior Portuguese National Team, scoring 26 goals. He was voted AIPS Football personality of the Year in 2000, the same year that he was awarded the France Football Golden Ball Trophy, World Sports Awards Best Football Player of the year and Uruguay El Pais Best Footballer in Europe.

A modest and humble man, he declared at the award ceremony that “A team is a group of 20 or so players and each one has his role. We all work together and it is not just one player who makes the difference”. He also stated that “Raul and Beckham deserve the trophy as much as me” and pointed out that the figure of reference of Portuguese football continues to be the legendary Eusebio.

Eusebio, a permanent figure on Benfica’s coaching staff, was the star of the Poruguese side that came third in the London World Cup in 1966. Nicknamed the Black Panther, he was a prolific goal-scorer for Benfica in the 1960s and 1970s. Regarding Figo’s award, Eusebio declared, “We Portuguese will be regarded differently in the World Cup, because we have the best player in the world”.

Regarding the World Cup in Japan/Korea 2002, the Portuguese Football Federation is confident: “We will win”.