Sawa caps stellar year
By Tiago Bontempo
After a five-year reign, Brazilian forward Marta had to yield the world’s best player crown. For the first time ever, the “queen of football” is Japanese. And you cannot say Homare Sawa isn’t deserving.
Homare Sawa was named Female Player of the Year
The 33-year-old midfielder led Nadeshiko Japan to an unprecedented and astonishing World Cup title, as well as finishing the competition with the prizes for top scorer and MVP. Afterwards, she helped Japan win the Asian Qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics.
In the Nadeshiko League, the women’s counterpart of the J.League, NTV Beleza, who were champions five times in six years (all of them with Sawa in their roster), must be regretful for not having offered a professional contract last year to the record holder for appearances (176) and goals (80) in the National Team.
Therefore, she left the team from Tokyo for the Hyogo Prefecture based INAC Kobe Leonessa, a club who had never won the league. However, they managed to assemble a real dream team, with no less than seven world champions. Besides Sawa, there were keeper Kaihori, full-back Kinga, midfielder Asuna Tanaka and forwards Ohno, Takase and Kawasumi. They also featured midfielder Ji So-Yun, a young star from South Korean National Team.
The star-studded team led the league from start to finish and won their first Nadeshiko League title undefeated, with 13 wins and three draws in 16 matches, with 49 goals scored and only eight concededd – Sawa scored four herself.
To conclude the season with every possible trophy, Kobe also won the All-Japan Women’s Soccer Championship Tournament, the women’s version of the Emperor’s Cup, beating Albirex Niigata 3-0 on New Year’s Day at the National Stadium in Tokyo.
Despite being the top scorer at the World Cup, Sawa has been playing as a deep-lying midfielder. She distributes the ball, orchestrates the offensive plays and eventually gets in position for finishing, while also showing an incredible disposition for defensive duties.
Tireless on the field, shy and humble off it, she is the symbol of the hardships overcame and achievements conquered by the Japanese women’s football in 2011.
There is nothing fairer than the FIFA Player of the Year award to crown Homare Sawa’s perfect year.
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