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FIFA Player of the Year Awards to be Announced Monday - 2001-12-14

The International Football Federation will announce Monday the coaches' picks of the world's best football players in 2001.

For the first time, the FIFA World Player of the Year award will be presented to both a man and a woman. Previously, only men received the prize.

The leading candidates for the women's title are Sun Wen of China, and American stars Mia Hamm and Tiffany Milbrett.

On the men's side, the FIFA World Player award will go to one of three Europeans: Raul, Spain; Luis Figo, Portugal; or David Beckham, England.

FIFA says 130 national coaches submitted their votes for the men's award, while 72 coaches nominated their top women players.

This will be the 11th time the men's award has been presented. Former German star Lothar Matthaus was the first winner in 1991. The only two-time winners are Ronaldo, Brazil and Zinedine Zidane, France.

19-year-old Ghanaian, Sumaila Abdallah, will receive FIFA's Fair Play diploma, for saving the life of an opponent with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation during a local match in Ghana.

"A player, [Charles Taylor of the Accra-based Hearts of Oak club] just missed a goal scoring chance during a crucial league match," Abadallah said describing what happened. "I saw him down. I thought his fall was because of the messing up of that scoring opportunity. After about 10 seconds, he was still down. Then I sensed he was in danger, so I rushed to revive him, because he was unconscious."

Sumaila Abdallah is a goalkeeper who has won some medals playing for Ghana's national youth teams. But he says nothing compares with the prize from world football's governing body. "I feel very proud to be honored by FIFA. Winning the FIFA Fair Play award is well appreciated. George Weah of Liberia [the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year and three-time African Footballer of the Year] won the FIFA Fair Play honor in 1996. And last year, another African, Lucas Radebe of 'Bafana Bafana' of South Africa, was the winner. Winning a Fair Play diploma, at age 19, will motivate me in my football career. And I hope to win more honors for myself and Ghana," Abdallah said.

FIFA's gala in Zurich will be broadcast around the world. The three men's candidates for FIFA World Player of the Year: Raul, Luis Figo and David Beckham are also looking forward to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. All three play for teams that FIFA has ranked among the top 10 in the world, and that will be among the favorites to win the trophy at next year's Asian soccer spectacular.