women's world player of year

TOKYO  - Japan on Tuesday hailed women's football captain Homare Sawa after she was named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, saying the team's World Cup win had given the disaster-hit nation hope.

Sawa was announced as the 2011 winner at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala in Zurich on Monday.

Last year she won the Golden Boot as top scorer and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. "The women's football team gave us great hope and brightness at a time when Japan faced a series of hardships", Fujimura said. "They encouraged us," the top government spokesman said. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was visiting Ishinomaki, one of the devastated cities in northern Japan, told reporters: "It is encouraging news as the new year has just begun. I'm proud of her."