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 Tuesday, December 17, 2002 15:57 EST

Brazilian striker wins award for third time in career


MADRID, Spain -- Mia Hamm won FIFA's player of the year award for the second straight time Tuesday, while Ronaldo was honored for the third time, capping his comeback from injury.

Hamm, a midfielder for the WUSA's Washington Freedom and the top scorer in the history of the U.S. national team, beat German striker Birgit Prinz and Chinese midfielder Sun Wen. Hamm has won the women's award the only two years it has been awarded.

``It's a tremendous honor, a dream come true,'' she said. ``In the U.S. we try to sell the game of soccer. To tell people about this will be marvelous.''

Seventy-seven national team coaches voted, with five points awarded for first place, three for second, one for third. Hamm had 161 points, Prinz 96, and Sun 58.

Ronaldo, a Real Madrid striker who led Brazil to the World Cup championship, also won in 1996 and 1997.

On Monday, he won the Golden Ball, awarded to the best player in Europe.

German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich was second in the FIFA vote. French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who also plays for Real Madrid, was third. He won the award in 1998 and 2000.

Ronaldo made a comeback from an injury to his right knee that sidelined him for two years. He was the top scorer in the World Cup with eight goals, helping Brazil to a record fifth trophy.

``After two difficult years, I had my doubts and misgivings,'' he said. ``I sometimes wondered whether I would play again. Everything has turned out the way I hoped and dreamed it would.''

Ronaldo received 387 points, with 59 coaches choosing him as their top player. Kahn had 171 points, and Zidane 148.

Last year's FIFA winner, Portugal's Luis Figo, was 13th.

Hamm, who made her international debut as 15-year-old, has scored 136 goals for the United States. She won an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, followed by a silver medal four years later in Sydney. She was a member of the U.S. teams that won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999.

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