Littlehampton’s Sarah Kempson was crowned best women’s player for 2017 at the inaugural Beach Soccer Worldwide awards on Saturday.
Kempson, who turned 27 yesterday, beat Brazilian Leticia Villar and Dutch star Grytsje van den Berg to become the world’s best for this year.
A superb season has seen Kempson win the Euro Beach Soccer Cup with England and finish runner-up in the Euro Winners Cup with club side Portsmouth.
Kempson’s efforts for club and country have not gone unnoticed as she collected the prized accolade at a ceremony in Dubai at the weekend.
The 27-year-old star, who is a PE teacher at Durrington High School, knows it will be a year that lives long in the memory.
She said: “This is equivalent of the women’s Ballon d’Or, so I’m quite shocked to have won it. It’s been a great year for myself and the teams I’ve played for in beach soccer, so to win this just tops off what has been a crazy year. I got to watch a men’s tournament before the awards, which was nice.
"This year has been so special but it’s about making sure I build on it now.”
After flying out to Dubai on Friday, Kempson attended the awards ceremony a day later, before returning to the UK less than 24 hours later.
She returned to work at Durrington High on Monday as the best women’s beach soccer player on the planet.
Kempson added: “It’s been a whirlwind week or so but something I wouldn’t change.
“Getting a chance to go to Dubai and be part of such a special ceremony, it’s been amazing.
“I can’t believe this has happened to me but it has. This is a year I won’t forget, it’s now about making sure I continue to improve.”