Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah became the 19th recipient of the Golden Foot award at a star-studded ceremony in Monaco, as other greats of the game including Kelly Smith were also recognised.
Due to newly imposed travel restrictions in the UK, Salah could only be present for a brief time during the afternoon, as his wife picked up the prize on his behalf. To take out the top spot, Salah had to beat some serious competition including Monday night’s Ballon d’or winner Lionel Messi and prolific Polish goal scorer Robert Lewandowski.
The day was not only about recognising the achievements made by players over the last calendar year, but also about the career-long achievements of legends, both still playing and retired, within the game. Amongst them was Dani Alves, who has recently re-signed for Barcelona, all-time leading goal scorer for England women’s Kelly Smith, AC Milan great Paolo Maldini, Gunther Netzer and Gabriele Oriali.
During the afternoon press conference at the Fairmont Hotel, Dani Alves and Kelly Smith in particular expressed their gratitude at receiving the award – both reflecting on the barriers that they had to overcome in order to succeed.
Smith, England’s all-time top women’s goal scorer, told Monaco Life of the importance of winning the special award: “I think this is one of the most important things that has happened to me in my football career. It is amazing to be recognised and appreciated. When I first started playing football as a young kid, I never thought I’d reach the heights and the dreams that I have.”
In fact, as a youngster, Smith had to overcome major hurdles to find her path in football. “I had a lot of obstacles in my career growing up,” said the 43-year-old. “I was told I shouldn’t play football because I’m a girl. I was kicked off a couple of boys teams, but I didn’t listen to them, I just worked hard and got my head down.”
Dani Alves, who also picked up a legend’s award, had his own set of setbacks and hurdles to overcome. “I come from a small town in Brazil, where there are few opportunities, and when the opportunities come you have to make the most of them,” Alves told Monaco Life.
For both Alves and Smith, the importance of the award is two-fold: on a personal level it is recognition and appreciation of what they have done for the game, but it is also more global than that, as it inspires the next generation. “It’s all about leaving a legacy for young girls all across the world,” Smith said. “For me to be here today, I’m representing all those young girls, who dream of becoming a professional footballer.”
Alves added, “In the long run, the message I want to leave for the youngsters is that it doesn’t matter where they are from, or where they are, it only matters where they are going.”
As well as being an incredible personal achievement, the Golden Foot crystallizes one’s status as a football legend, serving as a beacon of hope for young, aspiring footballers across the globe; one which inspires them to overcome their own personal hurdles to make it in the game and emulate their heroes.
Photo source: Golden Foot Awards