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The FIFA World Player of the Year is an association football award given annually to the male and female player who are thought to be the best in the world, based on votes by coaches and captains of international teams. In a voting system based on positional voting, each coach gets three votes, worth five points, three points and one point, and the winners are ordered based on total number of points. The male award has been criticized for focusing mainly on players from the UEFA Champions League and largely ignoring players from the South American Copa Libertadores, which has produced more world club champions than Europe. The international leagues of the remaining confederations are also completely ignored.

The award started in 1991 for men and 2001 for women. Since the award's inception, European-based Brazilian players have dominated the male awards, having won 8 out of 18 editions of the prize, far ahead of the top second country France, which has won it 3 times.

The award's youngest winner, male or female, is Ronaldo, who won at the age of 20 in 1996. He won it again in 1997 and 2002. Marta is the only player to win it four times in a row, Birgit Prinz won three times in a row, while Ronaldinho, and Mia Hamm have won twice in a row. Marta is the only four-time winner, while Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, and Prinz have won the award three times. The oldest winner is Fabio Cannavaro who won in 2006 at age 33. The oldest female winner is Hamm, who won in 2002 at age 30, and the youngest female winner is Marta, who won in 2006 at age 20 (seven months older than Ronaldo in 1996).

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