Given that her glittering career has spanned over 15 years and 111 caps, it would perhaps be understandable if the legendary German defender Steffi Jones became a little blasé about pulling on her national shirt or turning out for her club, FFC Frankfurt.
As it is, however, the FIFA Women's World Cup winner and three-time European champion, who retired from international football in 2007, insists that every single match she played was an honour. "It didn't matter if I was playing for my club or my country," said Jones. "Every game was a highlight."
Yet despite the massive successes the defender enjoyed as an integral part of Tina-Theune Meyer's imperious German side, the 35-year-old believes her biggest achievement to date may have come off the field in the shape of her recent appointment to the role of Local Organising Committee president for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. "I want to give something back to the sport I love," she explained. "Playing soccer is character building and empowering and I want the whole world to know."
One of Jones' first tasks as LOC president has been to travel with Germany's U-17 women's team on a promotional visit to New Zealand, the host nation of the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, which will be staged between 28 October and 16 November this year. Her young countrywomen had been invited to compete in a four-team Future Stars Tournament comprised by USA, Australia and the hosts themselves, and Jones was evidently impressed by the standard on player on show.
"This tournament has the perfect title because ultimately
these players are the future stars of the game," she said.
"They will step into our places and become role models
themselves. And I am so jealous to see the skills these girls have.
They can do tricks I could never have done!"
Triumph and tragedy
Born in Frankfurt in December 1972, Jones' own love affair with football began at just four years of age. Widely considered an exclusively male sport at the time, football was not officially opened to German women until the year she was born. Indeed, Jones says her mother was horrified when she started playing.
"My mum thought it was for boys and never came to watch
until I was about 13," she recalled. "The first game she
came to I got knocked down and started crying so she ran on to the
field yelling at the opposition. The other parents had to hold her
back. Since then she has been my No1 fan."
Fortunately, the women's game has made massive strides over recent years, particularly in Germany - to the extent that players such as Jones are arguably just as renowned and respected in their homeland as their male counterparts. In fact, just as Franz Beckenbauer is known as the Kaiser for his remarkable exploits as player and manager, so Jones is referred to as the Kaiserin of German women's football, with TV stations keen to employ her as an analyst for both men's and women's matches.
It has not always been easy for the former defender though; growing up in a rough district of Frankfurt, her brother was involved in crime and developed a drug habit, her father left while she just a child, and she had to endure several experiences of racism. Recent years have also brought tragedy, notably when her younger brother, Franky, lost both his legs in a bomb attack in Iraq. Throughout it all, however, she has found football to be a source of considerable comfort, and admits she has also benefited from having an inspirational figure in the shape of her mother.
She said: "Mum always said that every day you should do
something good and then good things will eventually come back to
you. I try to be an open, honest, respectful person and I always
reflect on my actions and question whether I've done the right
Adhering to that philosophy, Jones hopes to positively influence young players and help build a bright future for women's football worldwide.