It had already been a majestic year. When Birgit Prinz made her debut in May for the Carolina Courage, she had won the German Cup, the Bundesliga and the UEFA Cup with FFC Frankfurt. America, the greatest league for women's football, represented a new frontier and a major challenge. But the German striker continued to conquer, shooting her team to victory in the WUSA League.
Her record for 2002 is incredible. The striker, who stands 1.79m tall, finished the year second in the scoring charts with 12 goals and eight assists from just 15 matches. Prinz, selected as the best player at the UEFA Cup final against Umeå IK in May, was also chosen as the Most Valuable Player in the Founders Cup II final, where she scored one and created another in the victory over Washington Freedom. The powerful striker, who has hit the net on 39 occasions in 91 starts for Germany, still found the energy to guide her country to easy qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup China PR 2003.
Prinz was probably the most talked about signing in WUSA history and big things were expected of her when she arrived in the spring. Few people gave much though to the fact that she was joining a team which, even with the presence of Norwegian superstar Hege Riise among its ranks, had finished bottom of the league the previous year. So, after a long and tiring European season, she touched down in the States with pressure on her shoulders.
"The fans are going to love Birgit play," said McDermott. "She's an exciting player capable of scoring goals in bundles. Birgit alone is worth the price of admission."
But Prinz crowned her performance with two goals in a fine win and never looked back.
"The first few matches were not easy, but the team helped me very much," she said. "They made me feel very welcome and at the beginning when it was hard to understand the coach, they explained what to do."
Few players have made such an immediate impression on the American league. Prinz continued to add to her reputation as one of the best goalscorers in the game and either scored or made an assist in the next eight matches.
"The thing about Birgit’s goals is they are fun to watch," said Carolina coach Marcia McDermott. "She is both deadly and accurate."
Prinz's rise to glory began very early. She was just 16 when she made her debut for her country in 1994 and a year later was part of the German team that finished runners-up at the FIFA Women's World Cup Sweden 1995. The same year she helped Germany to the European championship, which they also won in 1997 and 2001. She ranks fourth all-time in goals and sixth all-time in appearances for the national team. The powerful striker won the German player of the year award in 2001 and came fourth in the FIFA Player of the Year award last year.
On December 17, Prinz goes up against America's Mia Hamm and China's Sun Wen for this year's award. If she wins, it will crown a stunning season for the 25-year-old.