Japan captain Homare Sawa's
FIFA Women's Player of the Year award triggered a fresh wave of
delight in local newspapers and on television after a big night
for the team in Zurich.
Sawa, who led Japan's women to an astonishing World Cup
triumph in Germany last year, posed for photos with triple men's
winner Lionel Messi while dressed in a traditional kimono.
"My first thought was that the trophy felt so heavy," Sawa
told Japan's NHK television on Tuesday. "It's humbling to write
a new page in Japanese football history.
"It still hasn't sunk in," added the 33-year-old, whose
brilliance in Germany last year halted a run of five successive
wins for Brazilian hot shot Martha.
"Just for making it among the nominees, I wanted to say
'Well done!' to myself. When I went up to get the award my heart
was pounding and I was sweating. It was a surprise to win."
Japan coach Norio Sasaki won the women's coach of the year
at a gala FIFA ceremony on Monday.
Sasaki had shown his team harrowing photos of the
devastation wrought by last year's deadly earthquake and tsunami
in northeast Japan before their matches at the World Cup.
"This award is a testament to the unity of Japan," said
Sasaki, whose team upset Germany and Sweden before a dramatic
victory on penalties over the United States in the final.
"It was emotional to accept the award after all the support
shown for Japan following the earthquake."
Japan's women gave the nation a psychological lift as a
nuclear crisis raged back after the giant tsunami, triggered by
the quake, destroyed a power plant north of Tokyo.
Named after a frilly pink flower, Japan's "Nadeshiko"
embodied the iron-willed spirit of a nation united in its battle
to recover from the March 11 disaster.
"I feel blessed," said Japan Football Association (JFA)
president Junji Ogura. "Sawa and Sasaki winning are both firsts
for Asia. It's amazing.
"It also means, however, Japan's women will now become a
target. Everyone will be trying to beat them at the Olympics in
London this year. It's an exciting new challenge."
The JFA capped a special night for Japan by picking up the
Fair Play award.
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