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Chelsea forward Fran Kirby has been named the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year for the second time in her career, making her the first person to win the award twice.

Kirby won the inaugural award back in 2018.

Since then, the forward has had quite the journey. In November 2019, Kirby was diagnosed with pericarditis, a condition that causes swelling around the heart and threatened her soccer career. After six months of recovery, she returned to action at the start of the 2020-21 season.

“For me at the beginning of the year, I had no expectations of how my year was going to go,” Kirby said in an interview with Sky Sports News. “I was so motivated to come back and to be able to come back in a good way for my teammates. I didn’t want to come back in and be someone that the team has to carry.

“It was difficult to have to start from scratch. I had no fitness level, I hadn’t kicked a football in six months, so I think for me that was the hardest part.”

As the season got underway, Kirby was the one carrying her team offensively. She scored 16 goals and contributed 11 assists en route to Chelsea’s second consecutive Women’s Super League title. She also scored six goals to lead Chelsea to their first-ever UEFA Women’s Champions League Final, including this goal against Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

Kirby and teammate Sam Kerr have been unstoppable all season, linking up for 52 goals scored, including the following against Reading.

Kirby was chosen unanimously for the award by a panel of 30 women’s football experts.

“To have overcome a serious health condition and return in such sparkling form is admirable and inspiring,” Jen O’Neill, chair of the FWA’s women’s sub-committee, said in a statement. “Several players, including many of her Chelsea teammates, have been outstanding in a superb WSL season but there are fewer more joyful sights in football than a smiling, fit and firing Kirby.”