CAIRO - Bayern Munich's French Muslim football player Bilal Franck Ribery has been named the best player in Europe in the 2012/13 season, beating Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's a very special moment to be standing here this evening. I want to thank all of my team-mates from FC Bayern MÃ¼nchen, my family and my kids," Ribery said after receiving the award, Deutsch Welle reported.
"It's always nice to win this trophy; it's a special moment for me to be here," he added after being given the trophy by compatriot Michel Platini.
The 30-year-old Ribery earned 36 votes in the poll of journalists from across Europe, and received the award in a ceremony in Monaco that took place after this season's Champions League draw.
That was 23 more than four-time reigning world player of the year Lionel Messi.
The other shortlisted player, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo won three votes.
Winning his first international trophy, the award came as a recognition of his effort this season as an essential part of Bayern's charge to last season's historic treble of the Champions League crown, the Bundesliga title and the German Cup.
"This distinction rewards Franck for the magnificent season he had with his club and above all underlines his magnificent talent which allows him to be considered among the best players in the world," French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet said.
"Everyone in French football is very proud, and are with me in congratulating him."
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern chairman, agreed.
"He played a fantastic season and deserves it," he told Sky TV.
The Bayern Munich midfielder is believed to have reverted to Islam in 2006 after marrying a Muslim woman of Moroccan origin.
Though he rarely speaks about his faith, Ribery recently told Le Paris Match magazine that he felt safe with Islam.