Mariel Magret "Mia" Hamm was born on 17 March 1972 in Selma, Alabama. The 29-year-old is undoubtedly the best-known player in the US national team. Her 219 international caps rank her second in the FIFA Century Club. She made her debut with the senior national team at just 15 years of age and has since scored 129 goals for the USA - more international goals than any other player in the world. In Atlanta in 1996 Hamm became Olympic Champion, this was followed by a silver medal in 2000 at the Olympic Games in Sydney. She was part of the US teams that won the FIFA Women's World Cup in China in 1991 and in the USA in 1999. At the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden, where Hamm helped the US to the bronze medal, she wrote herself into the football history books by playing in goal against Denmark, in doing so, helping her team to victory in the match, after regular goalkeeper Briana Scurry was sent off and the US had already used their three substitutions.

Hamm has for some years been a role model for the youth generation, in the USA she enjoys the popularity of a pop idol. Sponsors Nike named a building after her, while Mia's advertising campaign for an energy drink with Michael Jordan is legendary, as is her Barbie doll sponsorship. Her book "Go for Gold" is less a biography than a handbook on how to succeed in football and in life.

With so many American girls wanting to emulate Hamm, the replica of her number 9 shirt has long been a top-seller. Playing for Washington Freedom last season in WUSA, the US Women's Professional League, Mia may only have scored 6 goals, but her team drew the highest attendances to away matches, averaging 11,277 fans per game. Everyone wanted to see Mia.

Hamm has learnt how to handle her popularity. She values the publicity, but does not seek out the cameras. Too much attention is almost embarrassing to her. "In short, I'm just a football player. I've not freed any slaves or changed the world. I just play football and enjoy my success," Hamm once said.

he modesty of a team player is something she learnt from Anson Dorrance - her coach at the University of North Carolina (where she graduated in Political Science) and the national team, as well as her mentor and almost a surrogate member of her family. Dorrance discovered Hamm and took her under his wing while her family was constantly on the move because of her father's position in the military. Not only did the coach mould his star pupil's ambition, commitment and will to win, but also her personality.

"When Mia has the ball at her feet, you have the feeling that something great will happen." These words from a team-mate probably best describe Mia Hamm the footballer, who through the Mia Hamm Foundation is now actively working in the fight against bone marrow disease.