After being crowned 'FIFA World Footballer of the Year' in 2001 and 2002, Mariel Margaret Hamm - known throughout the world just as 'Mia' - is looking to complete her hat-trick of awards in 2004 after losing out at the same final nominating stage last year.

This year it would be a particularly special achievement for 'Marvellous Mia' since it is her last as on the U.S. national team.  The 32-year-old forward has had a busy year -- one capped off with the Gold Medal from the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Athens this summer.The world record holder for goals in international matches - a remarkable 157 and counting - is going out on an all-around high, having tallied 14 goals and 20 assists this year.

Despite watching her team crash to the relative ignominy of third place at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003, Mia started all six matches in Greece, adding to her now 272 international appearances.  Her team tallied five wins and a draw in the tournament, and she scored two goals and two assists -- including the match-winning pass in the semi-final redemption against USA 2003 conquerors Germany in the semi-finals.

Mia took up the prestigious flag-bearer position for the United States at the closing ceremonies in Athens, and she has since been getting tributes from around the international sporting community.  But, Mia et al simply continued doing what they do best -- playing and winning.

Since the Olympics, they have claimed seven victories on the trot in a 'Fan Celebration Tour' of the United States, which will culminate in Carson, California against Mexico on the 8 December.

Hamm, born in Selma, Alabama in 1972 owes her love of football to her older siblings and father, and she made her international debut at the tender age of 15.  She won Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996, and took silver in Sydney in 2000.

She was part of the FIFA Women's World Cup winning teams of 1991 and 1999, and gave an unforgettable performance as goalkeeper against Denmark in 1995 after Briana Scurry was dismissed. USA went on to finish third in that tournament.

Hamm is the icon of women's football and in the USA enjoys the same celebrity status and popularity as pop stars. Her work away from football is equally laudable. She has set up the Mia Hamm Foundation, an organisation which battles bone marrow disease.

Hamm has caused headlines with her private life, after marrying baseball star Nomar Garciaparra of the Chicago Cubs. Despite her astronomical success she has retained her humility.

"I just play football and enjoy being successful," says Hamm on her formula for happiness.