Michelle Akers Named FIFA Player of the Century
CHICAGO (Tuesday, December 12, 2000) - Former U.S. Women's National Team star Michelle Akers, whose awards and triumphs are the stuff of legend, added perhaps the most prestigious honor to her crowded trophy case last night when she was named the Women's Player of the Century by FIFA, the world's governing body of soccer. The ceremony took place in Rome where the great Pele and Argentinean hero Diego Maradona were named Men's co-Players of the Century.
The first women's soccer player to gain global fame and sign a shoe-endorsement contract, Akers was an athlete ahead of her time when she dominated the 1991 Women's World Cup, scoring 10 goals, including two in the Women's World Cup Final, to help the USA to victory.
Akers' retired from international soccer just prior the 2000 Olympics after an historic 15-year career. She played in the first-ever U.S. Women's National Team match on Aug. 18, 1985, against Italy, and finisherd her career with 105 goals in 153 games.
One of the true pioneers of her sport, during her time with the national team, women's soccer grew from its humble beginnings into one of the most popular sports for girls and women in the U.S. With her works on and off the field, she helped pull women's soccer into the mainstream and became a role model for hundreds of thousands of young girls across the country. Her warm personality, unique sense of humor and ability to talk to people of all walks of life further endeared her to fans wherever she traveled.
Akers was named FIFA Player of the Century in joint voting by readers of FIFA Magazine (weighted at 50%) and the members of the FIFA Football Committee (also weighted at 50%). China's Sun Wen, who was taken first in the WUSA Draft last weekend by the Atlanta Beat, was honored with the FIFA Internet Award based on the votes cast by the fans through FIFA.com.
Akers played in five world championships with the USA, winning two Women's World Cup and one Olympic gold medal. In 1998, just prior to the World Cup in France, she received FIFA's highest honor, the FIFA Order of Merit, for her positive contributions to the game.
In addition to Akers' award, U.S. forward Mia Hamm, the world's all-time leading scorer with 127 career goals, finished in the top three in voting for both awards. Hamm finished behind Sun Wen in the Internet Award balloting, and third behind both Akers and Sun in the Player of the Century voting.