World Players of the Year

Switzerland – Brazil striker Ronaldinho won FIFA’s World Player of the Year award on Monday, ahead of France’s Thierry Henry and Ukrainian Andrei Shevchenko.

Henry came second for the second year in a row. Countryman Zinedine Zidane won in 2003.

Germany’s Birgit Prinz won the women’s award, ahead of American Mia Hamm and Brazilian youngster Marta.

Brazil was named team of the year.

Ronaldinho won the poll of national soccer associations with 620 votes, ahead of Henry on 552 and Shevchenko with 253 at a glittering gala in Zurich’s Opera House.

‘To be among the three who have been selected, I’m happy all the same whether I win or not,’ Ronaldinho said.

Ronaldinho has been in sparkling form for FC Barcelona, helping the Spanish side to the top of La Liga, and the last 16 of the Champions League. It was the first time he won the global award.

FIFA’s World Player Gala capped a year of celebrations marking the governing body’s centenary, and the other nominees spoke magnanimously.

‘You can’t say if you don’t win, you’re happy,’ said Henry. ‘There’s two tremendous players by my side there. It’s already amazing to be around this kind of player.’

The French striker helped Arsenal win the English Premier League undefeated, and top-scored with 30 league goals. Arsenal went on to set an English record 49 league games without losing.

Shevchenko, named European player of the year last week, was the leading scorer in Italy’s Serie A last season when his AC Milan side won the title. He has also helped Ukraine to a five-point lead at the top of its World Cup qualifying group.

‘It has been a great year for me,’ said Shevchenko. ‘I feel very honored to be here with these great champions by my side.’

Prinz retained the women’s award.

‘I think it’s great to be in the last three,’ said Prinz.

Hamm, who recently retired, said: ‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and to be able to do it as long as I’ve had, I’ve had a lot of support from my family. The game has yet to see so much more growth.’

Midfielder Marta – who was third in the vote – was on the shortlist for the first time, having starred for Brazil in the under-19 world championship in Thailand.

FIFA named Brazil as the top team for 2004, having retained first place in the governing body’s world rankings from last year, and fighting off challenges from European champion Greece, Argentina, France, Spain.

FIFA’s best mover of the year was China, which rose 32 places in the world rankings, to 54th, despite losing the final of the Asian Cup to neighbor Japan.

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