Cape Town – Lionel Messi’s long-awaited Fifa World Cup triumph has earned him nomination, but the competition will be tough from the four other stars for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award.
Laureus announced the nominees for various categories on Monday, with Morocco’s fairytale run to the World Cup semi-finals also being recognised in the Breakthrough of the Year category.
Messi will be one of the favourites for the sportsman’s gong, but it won’t be an easy choice for the Laureus World Sports Academy, with the winners set to be announced in April.
One of the main contenders will be arguably his biggest rival at Qatar 2022, French superstar Kylian Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain forward nearly secured his second title in a row as he was the Golden Boot winner with eight goals in seven matches, including an incredible hat-trick in the final.
But captain Messi wasn’t far behind with seven – including two in the final – and earned the Golden Ball award for being the best player in the tournament as Argentina beat France 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after the match ended 3-3 following extra time.
Current Laureus Sportsman of the Year Max Verstappen is again in the mix, having successfully defended his Formula One world title with his Red Bull car.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal will also make a strong bid for the Laureus award, having clinched the Australian Open and French Open – thereby becoming the first man to win 22 Grand Slam titles.
Swedish pole-vaulter Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis, who set three world records (with a best of 6.21m) and won two world titles, and American basketball star Steph Curry – who led the Golden State Warriors to a fourth NBA title in eight years – are the other nominees for the Sportsman of the Year award.
The Sportswomen of the Year award will be as hotly contested, with athletics stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica (a record fifth 100m title at World Championships) and American 400m hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (smashed world 400m hurdles record) perhaps the favourites.
The Morocco football team have been nominated for the Breakthrough of the Year award after topping their group at the World Cup, and going all the way to the semi-finals – having beaten Spain and Portugal in the last-16 and quarter-finals – while they went down 2-0 to France in the last-four.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and 1984 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel, a former Moroccan sports minister, said on Monday: “The World Cup was an incredible moment for Morocco.
“To become the first African team to make the semi-final and the first Arab speaking nation was a huge milestone for our country, and I was lucky enough to experience the atmosphere in Qatar and it was something else!
“For the team to be recognised on an International scale by Laureus and nominated for Laureus World Sport Breakthrough of the Year just emphasises how far Morocco has come as a sporting nation, and how much further it can continue to grow and inspire our future generations.”
The lone South African nomination came in the Sport For Good category via the Made For More organisation, which is based in Durban and tries to make sport inclusive for people with disabilities, including a surfing programme that teaches ways to bodyboard and surf, and operates sports camps that focus on Paralympic sports.
Selected Laureus World Sports Awards Nominees
Sportsman of the Year
Steph Curry (USA) Basketball – led Golden State Warriors to fourth NBA championship in eight years
Mondo Duplantis (Sweden) Athletics – three world records, two world titles in a dominant 2022
Kylian Mbappe (France) Football – Golden Boot winner at World Cup, led Ligue 1 in goals and assists
Lionel Messi (Argentina) Football – captained Argentina to the World Cup; Golden Ball for best player
Rafael Nadal (Spain) Tennis – won two Grand Slams in 2022 to take career wins to a record 22
Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Motor Racing – defended Formula One World Championship in 2022
Sportswoman of the Year
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) Athletics – won record fifth 100m title at World Championships
Katie Ledecky (USA) Swimming – four golds at World Aquatics Championships set a new record
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (USA) Athletics – smashed world 400m hurdles record
Alexia Putellas (Spain) Football – a second Ballon d’Or, captained Barcelona to perfect league win
Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) Alpine Skiing – regained overall title at the World Cup
Iga Swiatek (Poland) Tennis – won in France and USA to become World No.1
Team of the Year
Argentina Men’s Football Team – World Cup winners after a thrilling final against France
England Women’s Football Team – won the European Championships in front of packed crowds at home
France Men’s Rugby Team – ended 12-year wait for Six Nations title with a Grand Slam
Golden State Warriors (USA) Basketball – NBA champions for the fourth time in eight years
Oracle Red Bull Racing (Austria) – vanquished Mercedes after eight years to claim constructors’ title
Real Madrid (Spain) Football – La Liga and Champions League double for the Spanish giants
Breakthrough of the Year
Carlos Alcaraz (Spain) Tennis – won debut Grand Slam title in New York to take World No.1 spot
Tobi Amusan (Nigeria) Athletics – world champion and a new world record over 100m hurdles
Nathan Chen (USA) Figure Skating – Olympic gold with a world record in the short programme
Morocco Men's Football Team – first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup
Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan) Tennis – won Wimbledon from No.17 seed, her first Grand Slam title
Scottie Scheffler (USA) Golf – winner at Augusta and joint second at the US Open
Sport For Good shortlist
Boxgirls (Kenya) Boxing – empowering young women and challenging stereotypes
High Five (Germany) Action Sports – helping migrant and orphaned children integrate into new communities
Made For More (South Africa) Multi-sport – making sport inclusive for people with disabilities
Slum Soccer (India) Football – supporting homeless young people through sport and education TeamUp (Global) Movement – refugee children relieve stress through physical activity, supported by War Child, UNICEF and Save the Children