Sport

DJOKOVIC AND SPAIN STARS REIGN

No joy for Springboks and Kolisi at Laureus World Sports Awards

No joy for Springboks and Kolisi at Laureus World Sports Awards
Novak Djokovic accepts the 2024 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Cuadra / Getty Images for Laureus)

South Africa had four nominees at the 2024 Laureus World Sports Awards but came away empty-handed on a good night for Spain.

The Spanish women’s football team and Spanish playmaker Aitana Bonmatí won the Laureus World Team and World Sportswoman of the Year at the 2024 awards in Madrid.

It was a celebration for Spain, with Madrid hosting the 25th version of the awards at the stunning Palacio de Cibeles in the heart of the city.

laureus women football spain

Spain’s national women’s team players Aitana Bonmati (left), Salma Paralluelo (centre), and Ivana Andres after receiving the 2024 Laureus Sport For Best Team award during the 2024 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Juanjo Martin)

laureus nadal

Rafa Nadal attends the Winners Walk during the Laureus World Sports Awards Madrid 2024 at the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Patricia J Garcinuno / Getty Images for Laureus)

Spanish tennis superstar Rafa Nadal’s Fundación Rafa Nadal, which uses sport and education to inspire more than 1,000 young people in economically challenged communities in Spain and India, won the Laureus Sport for Good Award. Nadal was on hand to collect the award.

Serbian Tennis great Novak Djokovic, who won three of the four Grand Slam singles titles in 2023, and was a losing finalist at Wimbledon, was unsurprisingly named World Sportsman of the Year for a record fifth time. He won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2019.

But for South Africa, there was only disappointment as its four nominees — the Springboks (Team of the Year), Siya Kolisi (Comeback of the Year), sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer (Action Sportsperson of the Year) and the Justice Desk Africa (Sports for Good Category) — all missed out.

Bok disappointment

The current Springboks have become used to winning big matches and tournaments, but they had no say in the outcome of the Laureus Team of the Year category. It was a rare defeat for Kolisi’s men.

Despite twice winning the World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards following Rugby World Cup success, the 2024 Laureus voting panel went in a different direction.

Spain’s women’s soccer team, which claimed the World Cup last year, were worthy winners in a category stacked with excellent contenders.

It was a disappointing outcome for the Boks, but also unsurprising, especially as the Spanish women won despite issues with the Spanish Federation and internal tension between players and the coach.

“Our national team is a group like no other — our strength comes from every challenge we have faced, both on and off the field of play,” Bonmatí said.

laureus spain women football

Fifa President Gianni Infantino and Queen Letizia of Spain hand the winner’s trophy to Ivana Andres of Spain after winning the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 in Sydney, Australia, on 20 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Dean Lewis)

“I believe we have met them all, and I hope that we can be an inspiration to young girls in Spain and around the world, to not just take up football but participate in sport and enjoy all the benefits it brings.”

England’s Manchester City, who won the treble of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, were also overlooked in one of the most keenly contested categories at the Laureus Awards.

In a further disappointment, Kolisi lost out in the Comeback of the Year category. That award went to US gymnast Simone Biles, who took two years off because of mental health issues, but made a triumphant return in 2023, winning four gold medals at the World Championships in October.

Kolisi heroically battled his way back from knee ligament surgery in just 130 days to captain the Boks at Rugby World Cup 2023. It was another category stacked with worthy winners, which included Ivory Coast and Dortmund star player Sébastien Haller, who returned to top-level football after overcoming testicular cancer.

“We are all sportspeople and there are, I think, some challenges that we face [that] are quite similar, so to see what they’ve [fellow nominees] been through — it gives you strength because you know that you’re not the only one,” Haller said.

“There are a lot of people that are going through some … some tough stuff and I think the sport has this power to make some positive changes.”

Djokovic reigns again

Djokovic was a worthy winner in a category with some of the greatest sportsmen of any era.

The Serb beat out footballers Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland, Formula One world champion Max Verstappen and track and field stars Noah Lyles and Mondo Duplantis.

“I am incredibly honoured to have won my fifth Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award,” Djokovic said.

“I think back to 2012, when I won it for the first time as a 24-year-old. I am very proud to be here 12 years later, reflecting on a year that brought me and my fans a lot of excitement and success.

“The Laureus Awards are so special because they represent recognition from the 69 world-class athletes who make up the Laureus World Sports Academy. To earn the votes of my sporting heroes is what makes these awards so coveted in all of sport.

“I am truly blessed to be among sports greats as a winner, but also as a supporter and admirer of Laureus Sport for Good as I too believe in the power of sport to make a difference in the world.

“Finally, this Laureus Statuette stands alone because it represents more than sporting achievement. The Laureus mission of using sport as a power for good has been changing lives for 25 years and embodies the values of its founding patron, Nelson Mandela.

“I want to add my support to Laureus Sport for Good and the work they are doing to transform lives around the world.”

Football first

For Bonmatí it was a night of double delight as she became the first footballer to be named Sportswomen of the Year.

“I am honoured to receive the Laureus for Sportswoman of the Year — and I am also very happy that my international teammates have been recognised as the Team of the Year by the Laureus World Sports Academy,” Bonmatí said.

“It is humbling to see the list of previous winners of this award. From Serena Williams to Simone Biles, Lindsey Vonn, Naomi Osaka and last year’s winner, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, they are all incredible athletes who have not only excelled in their chosen sports, but been incredible role models for younger generations of young women and girls.

“To be the first footballer to win this award makes it even more special and I hope to represent my sport in the same way that those great champions have done.

“As the first women’s team to win the Laureus, we are proud of our status as pioneers and as a group, we are as committed to equality and representation as we are to what we do on the football pitch.

“I know these values are shared by the Laureus Academy and Laureus Sport for Good, and we support the work they do all over the world to improve the lives of at-risk girls and young women through sport.”

Wunderkind 

laureus bellingham

Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid at the press conference in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Alberto Gardin / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

England’s soccer wunderkind Jude Bellingham picked up the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year, which is for rising sports stars.

Fresh off scoring the winner to give Real Madrid a 3-2 win over Barcelona in El Clásico just 24 hours earlier, Bellingham’s award underlined his status as one of the most exciting prospects in world sport.

When winning the award, Bellingham was quick to acknowledge that his fame and success came with responsibility.

“It’s important as athletes we understand that as we become more popular, we do have a responsibility to those watching,” Bellingham said.

“I take it seriously and although I’m not perfect and will make mistakes I will try and help people along the way and help them get to where they want to go because people have helped me.

“It’s been a great year and I’m really proud of it. It’s been a mad few days but I hope to keep making memories with Real Madrid and with England,” Bellingham said.

“It’s been a crazy week and I’m a bit tired, but I would see success at the end of the season as winning more trophies with Real and England.

“We’re still in with a chance with two trophies with Real [La Liga and Champions League] and with England in Euro 2024. But it will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice.”

He received his statue from tennis player Carlos Alacaraz, who was the 2023 winner in the category. DM

The full list of winners is:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Novak Djokovic
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Aitana Bonmatí
Laureus World Team of the Year Award: Spain Women’s Football Team
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Jude Bellingham
Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award: Simone Biles
Laureus Sport for Good Award: Fundación Rafa Nadal
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Diede de Groot
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Arisa Trew

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Barry Taylor says:

    I honestly do not know why Kolisi was nominated
    The team I can understand but kolisi should not have been nominated as he was a mediocre player in my eyes during the whole game

    • Steve Davidson says:

      If you read properly, you would have noticed that his nomination was for ‘Comeback of the year’ which he certainly deserved. And your racism shines through in your comment – he played as he always does, very well. But then I wouldn’t expect you to concede that.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Djokovic a ‘sportsman’? Aikona, babas.

      • Johann Olivier says:

        Agreed, Mr. Davidson. Aside from his anti-vaccination stance, he’s quite the rabid Serbian nationalist. And we know all about Serbian nationalism.

  • William Kelly says:

    How the Bokke did not win this hands down is a mystery.
    Meh. A Laureus Sports Awards own goal. But I award Laureus Will’s Woke Ward (I dropped the a off ‘award since being the first letter of the alphabet A gets far too much attention as it is and it’s time the W’s had their moment in the sunshine), so at least they can feel good about that.

    • Bosman Puren says:

      Agreed. Maybe I’m subjective but the struggles Spain’s National Women’s Football team had to endure pales against the drama the Springboks had to face. But more importantly I think Laureus missed the mark in terms of what the awards stand for as the hope and unity that the Springboks brought to a whole nation was incredible in this uncertain times

  • Simon Rhoades says:

    Your outrage is all about the wrong award, people.

    I’m sure landing a 720 on a skateboard is extremely difficult, but let’s face it we know for certain a 13-year old can do it because she won the award.

    Sailing solo round the world, however, becoming the first woman ever to win such a race, and taking a detour into the Southern Ocean to save the life of a fellow competitor in the middle of it – that’s proper difficult.

    Kirsten Neuschafer wuz robbed!!

    • Mike Monson says:

      I agree wholeheartedly! What were these judges thinking? Kirsten’s winning solo trip around the world displayed skills, determination, physical and mental strength, courage and humility that few, if any, of the other contenders could claim. Maybe their judging criteria don’t take these factors into account?

    • Gerrie Pretorius says:

      Definitely! The 720 will be done again, but what Kirsten did was a once-off.

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