Japan's Homare Sawa was named 2011 FIFA Women's World Player of the year Monday. The playmaker took home best player honors at last summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, and won her first player of the year award at Monday's star-studded gala, according to FIFA.com.
Sawa earned 28.5 percent of the votes cast, edging out fellow finalists Marta (Brazil) and Abbby Wambach (U.S.) for the award. National team coaches and captains, as well as journalists from around the globe vote on the award.
Japan's improbable run to glory at the 2011 World Cup saw it defeat world powers Germany, Sweden and the United States in the knockout rounds. Much of Japan's attacking play flowed through Sawa, and she scored a tournament-high five goals.
The Nadeshiko, as Japan's women's team is known, were greeted as heroes upon their return to the country. Sawa and her teammates also picked up the FIFA Fair Play award. Their victory gave the ailing nation inspiration and a measure of relief following last March's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
"I hope we can give strength and encouragement to the Japanese people back home," Sawa said. "I hope our football has given a chance for future players and children to dream."