CHICAGO (Monday, December 17, 2001) - U.S. Women's National Team star Mia Hamm was named the FIFA World Women's Player of the Year today at the FIFA World Player Gala 2001 in Zurich, Switzerland. A men's World Player of the Year has been awarded since 1991, but this is the first year that a woman was so honored. Portugal's and Real Madrid's Luis Figo won the men's award.“It’s a great honor,” said Hamm. “But more importantly, I think it’s wonderful that FIFA has instituted this award and to see the progress that women’s soccer has made with FIFA has been tremendous. The first step was the first world championship in 1991. That was a historic stride for us, to get our own world championship. In 1999, for the tournament to be universally known as the Women’s World Cup after being called a world championship in the two previous tournaments, was a big step. It helped legitimize our sport to the world.”
Hamm received 154 points in voting by 72 women’s national team coaches, beating out the two other finalists, U.S. teammate Tiffeny Milbrett (47 points) and China’s Sun Wen (79 points). Ten U.S. players received votes for the award - Hamm, Milbrett, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, LaKeysia Beene, and Brianna Scurry. Five points were awarded for a first place nomination, three points for a second place, and one point for a third. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own national team. For a breakdown of the voting, go to www.FIFA.com.
Hamm played in front of swelled crowds all year long during the inaugural WUSA season for the Washington Freedom, yet another indication of her tremendous impact on the growth of the women’s game. She was named to the All-WUSA Second Team and capped her year with a rousing two-goal performance in a 4-1 victory over Germany at the Nike U.S. Women’s Cup.
“Sun Wen is one of the greatest players that has ever played the game in terms of her creativity and ability to score any kind of goal,” said Hamm. “She seemed to always score when China needed one and even in the WUSA playoffs she came through. What Millie has done the last three or four years is unbelievable. She was unbelievable before that, but you saw new confidence and maturity. When you play along side her and see the goals she scores and the things she does, you’re just in awe. She’s just been awesome. I’m glad she’s on my team.”
Hamm, the five-time U.S. Soccer Chevrolet Female Player of the Year, has 129 career goals for the USA, by far the most ever for a woman or man in international competition. The prestigious and historic award from FIFA can be added to a long list of honors that Hamm has received in career. She was named the Women's Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year for 1997 and won a 1998 ESPY Award for Outstanding Female Athlete, among others.
“Honoring a women’s footballer of the year says so much for how far this game has come and the respect that it is now being given,” added Hamm. “For me, it’s always been about progressing the game. Soccer has given all of us so much, to see it continue to grow, means a lot to me.”