The award for the FIFA Women's Football Coach of the Year was presented for only the second time at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala on Monday as Norio Sasaki became Silvia Neid's proud successor. The Japanese national team manager prevailed from a three-strong shortlist which also included USA coach Pia Sundhage and Bruno Bini of France.
Sasaki could hardly have wished for a better 2011. The 53-year-old steered Japan to a historic success at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ in Germany, encouraging attractive flowing football and eventually defeating USA on penalties in the final to claim the Nadeshiko's first world crown.
After the ceremony, Sasaki spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about the highlights of his career to date and his pride at winning the award.
FIFA.com: How does it feel to be voted FIFA Women's Football Coach of the Year?
Norio Sasaki: I am so honoured. Just being here at such an amazing event together with my family makes me feel so grateful. I'm so emotional and I'm feeling very happy. Just being here is one thing, but winning this award is simply overwhelming.
Having won the FIFA Women's World Cup in the summer, how does this individual award rate among your career highlights?
Of course winning the World Cup was a fantastic moment – both for us and Japan. This award is recognition from the world of football for our courage and effort. It's something I want to take back to Japan, where the people are so happy right now.
What did you think about Homare Sawa being voted the FIFA Women's World Player?
She is the best. She's been with us since I started coaching the Japanese women’s national team in 2008. I had full confidence in her ability and talent and it's been confirmed this year. She was appointed captain as soon as I started and there has been a tremendous amount of pressure on her, but she has fulfilled her responsibilities admirably. I'm full of admiration for her courage and her ability. She made me into the person I am today, something I'm very grateful for.
Finally, what are your goals for 2012?
Since 2008 it has been our goal to win the World Cup and then to win the Olympics the following year. No team has ever managed that, so that's our target. Together with all the girls we're going to achieve that this year.