Renate Lingor is one of Germany's most experienced players. The 31-year-old midfielder has so far made more than 120 appearances for the reigning world champions, scoring 27 goals in the process.
Exceptionally strong on the ball, Lingor is particularly renowned for her ability to evade close marking. Highlights of her long and distinguished career include two UEFA European Women's Championship titles, one FIFA Women's World Cup success and two Olympic bronze medals. Winning the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year 2006 award would add an individual title to those impressive credentials.
Lingor was introduced to football at the age of six by her elder brother Wolfgang, and before long she was playing for two teams - an all-girls' side, and as the only girl in her local boys' team. In 1990, the 14-year-old moved from SC Karlsruhe to Women's Bundesliga outfit SC Klinge Seckach. In 1996, the club reached the German Cup final, only to lose out against FSV Frankfurt in front of 40,000 fans at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
Goals and assists
The following year, Lingor moved to her current club, FFC Frankfurt, where she soon established herself as one of the key figures in a team packed with German internationals.
From then on, the honours were not long in coming, and the free-scoring midfielder has since accumulated five German league championships, five domestic cup-winners medals, and two UEFA Cup titles. The second of those came in May 2006, when Frankfurt beat Turbine Potsdam 4-0 and 3-2 in an all-German final, with Lingor contributing three goals over the two legs.
She made her debut for Germany against Slovakia in October 1995, although it took her some time to establish herself as a regular in the national side. A member of the squad for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, she was only used once, as a substitute against Norway. Three years later, at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999, the 23-year-old still found herself consigned to the bench for the most part, and for a time, her inconsistent form threatened to put the brakes on a promising career. Germany's national coach at the time, Tina Theune-Meyer, became something of a mentor for Lingor and made it clear she needed to work harder on her game in order to realise her true potential.
Her international breakthrough came at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the play-off for third place, she fired the opener in Germany's 2-0 victory over Brazil, helping her team secure the bronze medal. "Sydney was fantastic," says Lingor. "In terms of the outcome it was better than the 1999 World Cup." Four years later, at the Athens Games, she would repeat the feat, grabbing the only goal of the game in the bronze-medal play-off against Sweden.
In 2003, Lingor was an integral part of the victorious Germany side at the FIFA Women's World Cup in the United States, performing impressively throughout the tournament. In the final against Sweden, with the teams tied at 1-1 in extra time, her floated free kick was headed home by Nia Kuenzer - the goal that secured Germany their first world title.
'Key player for club and country'
When Bettina Wiegmann retired in the wake of the tournament, Lingor inherited her number 10 shirt and has gone on to establish herself as the team's undisputed playmaker.
National coach Silvia Neid has attested to that fact, saying, "Renate's passing ability and vision make her the key player for both her club and her country."
As Germany prepare for their defence of the world title at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007, Renate Lingor remains modest about her chances of scooping the FIFA World Player of the Year award. "I'm delighted to have been nominated of course, "she said, "and would be proud to win a place in the top three." She has already achieved that goal, and on 18 December, she will know if she needs to make space in her trophy cabinet for another honour.