News update: 02/18/99
ALL-STAR CAST COMES OUT TO WATCH 1999 INDUCTION CEREMONY
BARCELONA, SPAIN, (February 2, 1999) - The biggest celebrities in the history of world football were everywhere. Beckenbauer chatting with Cruyff. Sir Bobby Charlton entertaining the media. World Cup legends Dino Zoff and Just Fontaine recounting their past glories. The daughter and son-in-law of the late Garrincha, one of the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time, reminiscing in native tongue with Ronaldo. They all descended on Barcelona February 1st for the 1998 FIFA World Player Gala and the second annual induction ceremony of the International Football Hall of Champions
In what has become the most glamorous night of the year for international football, the most powerful people in the sport came out to witness the induction ceremony and await the announcement for FIFA's Player of the Year for 1998. With the greatest players and personalities from yesterday and today, the atmosphere surrounding the event was indeed a rare experience.
After a celebrity-ridden cocktail reception in the atrium of the glittering Teatro Nacional de Catalunya, the televised gala began and was broadcast live across Europe and other countries around the world. The first segment of the show saw the International Football Hall of Champions open its doors to the following legends in their specified category:
As an inaugural Hall of Champions inductee, legendary Dutch player Johan Cruyff presented the awards and welcomed the newest Hall of Champions inductees. Cruyff, a former player and coach of local giant FC Barcelona, has a unique place in the history of football in Barcelona and took center stage in his beloved Catalan city.
Highlights included Cruyff's presentation to Franz Beckenbauer, another inaugural Hall of Champions inductee who was accepting the national team award for Germany, followed by Ajax Amsterdam Chairman Michael Van Praag's acceptance for his club team, where Cruyff began his career and shared its most successful era.
A great moment occurred just seconds after a video segment of the World Cup 1974 Final showing referee Jack Taylor calling a penalty for Cruyff in the first minute, waving off an upset Beckenbauer, and then later issuing Cruyff a yellow card caution. Taylor took the stage only to show the presenter yet another yellow card before accepting his award.
The media numbered in the hundreds and battled for the best shots and interviews. Other celebrities in attendance at the gala included FIFA World Player nominees Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Davor Suker, the latter creating a whirlwind of attention with girlfriend and Spanish TV celebrity Ana Obregón on hand to witness the show. Other great players included Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov, and World Cup champion Lilian Thuram.
Representing the Hall of Champions was Michel Platini, accepting the award on behalf of the late Fernand Sastre. Also representing the co-president of World Cup 98 was his widow, Marcelle Sastre and French Federation boss Claude Simonet. Accepting for legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was his long-time Liverpool captain Ron Yeats. Recently retired FIFA president João Havelange received his award as a pioneer, and was also able to catch up with current FIFA chief Sepp Blatter and new General Secretary Michel Zen-Rufinen. Also presenting awards was adidas president Robert Louis-Dreyfuss.
Barcelona-based football magazine Don Balon served as official host of the event, while celebrating their 25th anniversary. The host gave out several Spain-specific awards during their segment of the show, while also celebrating the 100th year for FC Barcelona (the stage's backdrop was a huge visual of the inside of Barcelona's Nou Camp Stadium).
The production was handled by TV Catalonia of Barcelona, which split the show into Spanish/Catalan and English languages. Both of the show's guest hosts were TV personalities from their respective countries, Anna Walker from England and Spaniard Pere Escobar.
The evening concluded with Don Balon's Spanish-style dinner in the gardens at the luxurious Rey Juan Carlos Hotel, which served as the host hotel for all the guests in attendance. The 5-star hotel also handled the back-to-back press conferences for the Hall of Champions, Don Balon, and FIFA earlier in the day.
The International Football Hall of Champions (IFHOC) is the only official FIFA-recognized and supported enshrinement for world football and is currently making plans to build a permanent facility to justly honor and celebrate the rich history and steep traditions of the game. For more information about the International Football Hall of Champions and the induction ceremony during the FIFA World Player Gala, please call 001-404-239-6288, or contact the website at www.hallofchampions.com.