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FOOTBALL

Messi wins top FIFA award at Zurich gala

Lionel Messi added yet another record to his stellar list of achievements over the past 12 months on Monday when he won an unprecedented fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or at a FIFA gala in Zurich.

Messi wins top FIFA award at Zurich gala
Messi at Zurich gala holding the trophy for world's best footballer — again. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The accolade seals Messi's status as the greatest football player of his generation after he saw off Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona teammate
Andres Iniesta for the prize.

The 25-year-old Barcelona player received a vote share of 41.60 percent to 23.68 for Ronaldo and 10.91 for Iniesta.

Messi and former French star, UEFA president Michel Platini, had prior to Monday been the only players to win three straight Ballon d'Or awards while
Dutch greats Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten both won the accolade on three occasions.

Spain's Vicente del Bosque was named coach of the year for 2012, seeing off competition from Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Josep
Guardiola.

Messi's success crowned another landmark year for the Argentine who is already the top scorer in La Liga for the ongoing season with 25 goals, having also broken Gerd Mueller's 40-year record for the most goals in a calendar year.

He finished 2012 with an astonishing 91 goals in all competitions.

But Messi has insisted his scoring records will mean nothing if Barcelona do not go on to take the La Liga title off Real or fail to win the Champions League.

"It is incredible to receive this prize once again and it's impressive it makes it four in a row," he said.

"I would like to share this with my Barca teammates — particularly with Andres, who is here with me," said the ever unassuming superstar.

"I am also thinking of my teammates in the Argentina squad."

Beforehand he had said winning for Barcelona outweighed any personal glory.

"My goals are to win titles with the team, the Spanish league, Spanish Cup or Champions League is more important than any personal records."

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova had already eulogised his player in advance of Messi's win.

"Leo's great quality is that he plays as if he is still a child," Vilanova said.

"He was always good as a youngster and you didn't need to be a coach to say that. It was a joy to see him play as a 15-year-old and that continues now."

Until he can lift top honours with Argentina, however, some observers will insist he cannot be classed as the greatest player ever, moving ahead of Pele and Diego
Maradona.

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FOOTBALL

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said. 

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