Ask any number of passers-by in Germany for the name of a women's footballer, and almost 100 per cent of them would reply: "Birgit Prinz."
This exceptional German striker has well and truly earned her status as a household name. While most player's careers go through fluctuations in fortunes, Prinz has astounded observers for years with her consistency. It is little wonder, therefore, that she has been nominated for the Women's World Player of the Year for the fourth year in succession and now has the chance to complete a historic hat-trick after winning the accolade in 2003 and 2004 and finishing runner-up behind USA's Mia Hamm in 2002.
Prinz, who made her international début as a 16-year-old in 1994, has accumulated a list of honours over the last ten years that reads like a wish list for any aspiring women's footballer: FIFA World Cup 2003, FIFA World Cup 1995 runner up, Olympic Bronze 2000 and 2004, European Championship 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, UEFA Cup 2002, German Championship 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, German Cup 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, Super Cup 1996.
And for the icing on the cake, she also won the USA's professional championship, the WUSA in 2002 with Carolina Courage. The talismanic player, renowned for her speed, drive and clinical finishing is missing just one thing from her trophy cabinet: the Olympic Gold. And anybody who knows the qualified physiotherapist will know that the 2008 tournament in Peking is already circled in thick pen on her calendar.
Success in 2005
The tall (1.79 metres) striker can look back on a successful 2005. At the beginning of May, the 28-year-old lifted the German championship with FFC Frankfurt before becoming a European Champion once again, prevailing 3-1 over Norway in the final of the UEFA Women's European Championship England 2005 to add yet another title to her long list of successes.
Her decisive goal in the 1-0 victory over Italy in the group stage was voted goal of the tournament by British BBC viewers. She scored her third goal of the tournament in the final to round off a successful tournament as an individual and as a team. Suddenly, the doubt surrounding her participation in the tournament after an injury in the German Cup final against Turbine Potsdam seemed long forgotten.
Prinz also wrote German football history in 2005, surpassing the all-time scoring record of striker Heidi Mohr who held the previous record with 83 goals. With 90 goals from 143 games, Prinz has smashed the old record in a relatively short space of time.
As committed off the field
Even away from the football pitch, Prinz's performances are to be admired. She is currently working with FIFA in their campaign against racism: "All footballers have the opportunity to influence people. We can make a contribution towards eradicating racism in the world."
In August, she spent five days in Afghanistan as a patron of the "Learn and Play Project" supported by FIFA, the National Olympic Committee and Afghanistan Aid. Prinz worked alongside Holger Obermann, who acts for FIFA and the German Football Association (DFB) in crisis-affected areas. "You only had to look at the children to know that it was the right thing to do," says Prinz of her Afghanistan experience.
However, Prinz still has some sporting ambitions to fulfill and insists that she has not yet reached her full potential. While she insists that personal accolades are of secondary importance to her, she admits she would be delighted to be crowned FIFA Women's World Player of the Year 2005 and complete a quite special hat-trick.
And if her incredible career could continue a while longer, passers-by asked to name a women's footballer will be uttering the name Birgit Prinz for many years to come...