China's Sun Wen (Internet poll) and the USA's Michelle Akers (FIFA Magazine and FIFA Football Committee) were jointly voted FIFA Women Player of the Century.

Sun Wen, 27, is not just an exceptional footballer. The literature student from the University of Shanghai is also a true superstar of the sport and an idol in China. When she strolls around her home city of Shanghai, she automatically draws a crowd. Just about everyone knows this diminutive woman, a woman who is completely at ease on the ball and has captained China's national side to a number of major successes. China, for example, won the silver medal at the last Women's World Cup in the United States, and in 1999 Sun Wen was awarded the Golden Shoe and the Golden Ball as the leading scorer and footballer of the year.

On the field Sun Wen is a personality, a player with outstand-ing individual skills, yet one who always plays for the team and is a role model in terms of fair play. Women's football is immensely popular in China, with games regularly being broadcast live on TV. And much of the popularity of the sport in her home country is down to Sun Wen.

Despite the fame and success that football has brought her, Sun Wen has kept both feet firmly on the ground. She remains a modest and highly likeable person, whose interests are not simply limited to football. Sun Wen is also musically gifted. She writes poems, some of which have been published in the press. And she presents a talk show and three game shows on local television.

Akers's struggle
Michelle Akers is also a role model and personality. She started playing football at the age of eight and made her debut in the US national team at 19. She played for her country for 15 years, making 153 appearances, and was a member of the sides that won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and the Olympic Tournament in 1996. This year, just a few weeks before the Olympic Games in Sydney, this exceptional player announced her retirement from the game at the age of 34.

Under the conditions that Michelle Akers played for many years, many others would have hung their boots up a lot earlier. The Californian, who also played in the highest Swedish league, once scoring 42 goals in a single season, has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) since the beginning of the 1990s. This illness, whose symptoms are debilitating fatigue, migraines and metabolic abnormalities, caused her a lot more trouble than the countless injuries she suffered (alone eight knee operations). Yet thanks to her enormous willpower, discipline and a special diet (no dairy products, breads or alcohol) Michelle Akers still managed to continue playing football, despite having to undergo intravenous rehydration with two to three liquids of saline solution after every match.