Marta of Brazil and United States striker Abby Wambach were also nominated. Japan coach Norio Sasaki was named Women’s Coach of the Year, ahead of France coach Bruno Bini and the USA’s Swedish coach Pia Sundhage.
The 2011 World Cup victory by the Japanese team, nicknamed “Nadeshiko” after a pink flower seen in Japan as a symbol of beauty, was the first football World Cup title for any Asian country and lifted spirits in Japan, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which left 21,000 people dead or missing and sparked a crisis at a nuclear power plant.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi followed Sawa to win the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or, the third consecutive year that he has won the prestigious award for the world’s outstanding footballer.
The 24-year-old Barcelona forward finished ahead of his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca team-mate Xavi.