The rivalry between Diego Maradona and Pele raised its head again when the Argentina star left the FIFA award ceremony before the Brazilian received his Player of the Century award in Rome. FIFA officials had defused the embarrassing situation over who should be named Player of the Century by giving both three-time World Cup winner Pele and Maradona awards.
The governing body originally planned to name only one Player of the Century with the winner being decided from a combination of votes from FIFA's website, the body's magazine and a grand jury. But amid reports that a cyber-blitz by Maradona fans had the self-confessed cocaine addict leading with 78,000 votes ahead of Pele on 26,000, the awards were split up into an Internet Player of the Century and a FIFA jury Player of the Century. And after originally threatening not to attend the ceremony Maradona left the gala dinner after receiving the internet award and before Pele received his accolade.
“I want to go home,” said the 40-year-old, who left accompanied by his wife Claudia and his agent. Pele said: “ I would have liked Maradona to be there to join me on the platform, but he had already left.” Maradona had earlier thanked FIFA for respecting the votes of the people, adding that he dedicated his trophy to: “The Argentinian people, Fidel Castro, my wife Claudia and all the players in the world that I love and respect, and the people who voted for me. I feel good in my head, serene. I'm happy and proud.”
French star Zinedine Zidane picked up the 2000 FIFA World Player of the Year award, ahead of the world's most expensive player Luis Figo. Manchester United's David Beckham was sixth in the voting. This is a special award for me and an honour to be chosen ahead of two players like Figo and Rivaldo,” Zidane said.
Real Madrid were named the team of the century, comfortably beating Manchester United into second place with Bayern Munich in third. Leeds United defender Lucas Radebe won the FIFA fair play award.
Filed by Sinéad Gleeson