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Monday, January 10, 2011
Ballon d'Or balloting: The real blast


What we learned from FIFA's Ballon d'Or festivities Monday night in Zurich: Mongolians love Abby Wambach.


The Hermosa Beach-based striker picked up eight first-place votes in the Women's Player of the Year contest, and two came from Mongolian women's national team head coach Ganjuur Bayartsogt and captain Sugar Bayar.

It wasn't nearly enough to halt former L.A. Sol star Marta's romp to her fifth successive world's-best honor: The Brazilian forward, who led FC Gold Pride to Women's Professional Soccer's title and is now playing in Brazil for Santos, captured 151 of 266 first-place votes from 119 coaches, 121 captains and 26 media. She failed to make the top three on on only 52 ballots, and on two of those -- both from Brazil -- she was ineligible.

Argentina's Lionel Messi won the men's World Player of the Year award for the second straight year, beating Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The coaches of the year were Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, who last spring guided Inter Milan to the UEFA Champions League title, and Germany women's national team coach Silvia Neid.

More interesting than who won is how everyone voted. FIFA won't make public the executive committee members' choices on a World Cup host, but every Player of the Year vote is online, both men and women.

U.S. men's captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) voted Xavi first, Iniesta second and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan) third.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley (Manhattan Beach) went with, in order, Xavi, Sneijder and Messi.

Paul Kennedy, the managing editor at Soccer America, had the U.S. media vote, and he went with Xavi, Messi and Sneijder.

Here's how our North American neighbors voted:

MEXICO
Captain (Gerardo Torrado):
Uruguay's Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid), Spain's Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid) and Messi.
Coach (Jose Manuel de la Torre): Forlan, Xabi Alonso and Messi.
Media (Esto's Salvador Aguilera): Iniesta, Messi and Forlan.

CANADA
Captain (Paul Stalteri):
Xavi, Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid).
Coach (Stephen Hart): Xavi, Messi and Spain's Iker Casillas (Real Madrid).
Media (The Canadian Press' Neil Davidson): Xavi, Messi and Forlan.

WOMEN'S BALLOTING: Wambach, who plays for WPS's Washington Freedom, also received first-place votes from one other coach (Guam's Cheri Stewart), three other captains (Belarus' Hanna Tatarynova, Iceland's Katrin Jonsdottir, and Italy's Patrizia Panico) and media from Kenya and Ireland.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo picked up five first-place votes.

Here's how North America's votes were cast:

UNITED STATES
Captain (Christie Rampone):
Marta, England's Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers) and German finalist Fatmire “Lira” Bajramaj (FFC Turbine Potsdam).
Coach (Pia Sundhage): Smith, Marta and Bajramaj.
Media (ESPN's Jacqueline Purdy): Marta, Smith and South Korea's Ji So Yun.

MEXICO
Captain (Evelyn Lopez):
Bajramaj, Canada's Christine Sinclair (was FC Gold Pride, now Western New York Flash) and Solo.
Coach (Leo Cuellar): Bajramaj, Ji So Yun and Wambach.

CANADA
Captain (Christine Sinclair):
Marta, Smith and Sweden's Caroline Seger (Philadelphia Independence).
Coach (Carolina Morace): Smith, Marta and Bajramaj
Media (The Canadian Press' Neil Davidson): German finalist Birgit Prinz (FFC Frankfurt), Marta and Sinclair.