On December 12 on a sleek, modern stage in Paris, the 63 annual Ballon d’Or was held. Hundreds of rich Parisians and soccer players filled the Theatre du Chatelet and people flocked to the outskirts of the red carpet, hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite football player. The Ballon d’Or, put on by Football France, is arguably one of the most prestigious awards in soccer. Four awards were given out, one to the top male player, the top female player, the top player under 21, and the top goalkeeper. The prizes are called the Ballon d’Or, Ballon d’Or Féminin, the Kopa Trophy, and the Yassin Trophy, respectively.
The big star of the night was Lionel Messi, who walked away with his sixth Ballon d’Or, the most in the history of the prize. Messi was also awarded another big prize in soccer, the FIFA Player of the Year. Christiano Ronaldo, who holds the second most Ballon d’Ors, with 5 currently, was in third place at the ceremony. Virgil Van Dijk, a successful Liverpool defender, took second place in the award. If he had won, it would have been the first time the award had gone to a defender since 2006.
Also making big headlines was Megan Rapinoe, who took away her first ever Ballon d’Or Féminin. Rapinoe’s win was likely partly due to her phenomenal World Cup appearance in which she won both the Golden Boot — an award for the most goals scored — as well as the Golden Ball — an award for the most valuable player. She also won player of the match for the World Cup final. Rapinoe has also been an outspoken political critic and an activist for women and LGBTQ+ rights. Perhaps most notably, this year she spearheaded a lawsuit with the demand for equal pay from the US Soccer Federation. Rapinoe also took a knee during the national anthem on multiple occasions throughout the season and during the Olympics.
Winning the Kopa Trophy, an award for the best young player, was Matthijs de Ligt. De Ligt was the second ever winner of the award, taking over for Mbappé. De Ligt is widely considered to be one of the best prospects for the future of the soccer. The first ever Yassin Trophy, the award for best goalie, was also given out this year. The award went to Allison Becker, a Brazilian goalkeeper on Liverpool.
These prestigious awards highlight the individual players, yet what is equally important is how a soccer team works together. For example, FC Barcelona’s success comes only with the help of all the teammates, not just Messi. Similarly, the US Women’s World Cup victory was not caused only because of Rapinoe.
At Berkeley High School, the soccer teams can learn from these successes. Though many seniors graduated, and the teams may have lost their Messis and their Rapinoes. However, with proper teamwork, the team may have a shot at becoming the North Coast Section Champions, just as the varsity boys did last year.