US forward Wambach voted world's best player
ZURICH (AP) — As a young girl, Abby Wambach had pictures of Mia Hamm on her bedroom wall and got the American soccer star's autograph.
On Monday, Wambach joined Hamm and became the second American to be voted FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.
"I'm a little speechless to be honest when you say it like that," Wambach told The Associated Press backstage at the Zurich Kongresshaus. "It's humbling to know that the majority think you are one of the best in the world."
Pia Sundhage was voted top women's coach after leading Wambach and the U.S. team to the gold medal at last summer's London Games, the third straight Olympic title for the American women.
The 32-year-old Wambach, a native of Rochester, N.Y., received 20.67 percent of votes from national team coaches and captains and select media to edge teammate Alex Morgan (13.5) and five-time winner Marta of Brazil (10.87). Jill Ellis, who was interim U.S. coach last fall, voted Wambach first, as did Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, while American captain Christie Rampone voted Morgan first.
"Thank you for challenging me every day, Alex especially," Wambach told Morgan and Marta from the stage after receiving the trophy from teammate Hope Solo.
Only five women have won the award in its 12-year history.
Sundhage, who quit after the Olympics to coach her native Sweden, serenaded her former star players during her own acceptance speech.
"I'd be sad and blue if not for you," Sundhage, a big Bob Dylan fan, crooned to the forwards who "made her look good" by getting 55 goals for the team last year.
Sundhage got 28.59 percent of the vote to defeat Nono Sasaki of Japan (23.83) and Bruno Bini of France (9.02).
"Cristiano Ronaldo turned to me and said, 'She's got a good voice,'" Wambach related. "I said: 'I know.'"
For Wambach and her former coach, there was history and emotion in this triumphant final journey together to Zurich.
"She has a similar mindset to me," Wambach said. "This is a team award. She doesn't think she has been able to do it on her own."