In what is a great honour for Steffi Jones and Birgit Prinz, the two former German legends have been recognised for their services to football and their sporting achievements by being named FIFA ambassadors for women's football.
Jones and Prinz are the third and fourth ambassadors from Germany, after Bettina Wiegmann and Silvia Neid. Other members of this elite circle are Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy (all USA), Mercy Akide (Nigeria), Silvana Burtini (Canada), Futaba Kioka (Japan), Ailing Jiu, Wen Sun (both China PR), Carolina Morace (Italy), Julie Murray (Australia), Sissi (Brazil), Heidi Stoer (Norway) and Pia Sundhage (Sweden).
The FIFA ambassadors have been working since 2005 in various capacities, all designed to promote women's football. Their tasks include moderating seminars, holding courses for coaches, reporting on the state of women's football in member associations, taking part in planning workshops and inaugurating Goal projects.
The basic aim of women's football ambassadors is to inspire girls and women to get actively involved in football, and as such they support FIFA's women's football development programmes around the world and help to build up awareness for them. They are also involved in representative activities at numerous women's football events, development programmes and seminars, and are also required to help strengthen women's football on a local level.
Careers crowned with trophies and records
Prinz will always "have a prominent status in women's football", said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in a personal letter to the former striker, telling her: "you proved in such an impressive way just what women can achieve thanks to football".
The 34-year-old is the most successful German women's player of all time, having been voted FIFA Women's World Player on three occasions, won two FIFA Women's World Cups™, five UEFA Women's European Championships, nine women's Bundesliga titles, taken part in the most ever FIFA Women's World Cups (five) and scored the most goals at the tournament (14, level with Marta), not to mention playing the most games and scoring the most goals in Olympic football tournaments. These are just the highlights from a long, long list of awards and successes which Prinz won throughout her career.
"Women's football has given me a lot throughout my life and blessed me with so many wonderful moments," said Prinz in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "Now that I've come to the end of my playing career, my aim is to continue to be active off the pitch. This is why it is important for me to take on this incredibly interesting role as a women's football ambassador and to help to promote our sport."
During her storied playing career, Frankfurt-born Prinz experienced and influenced first-hand how the women's version of the beautiful game has changed. "The global development of women's football is well underway," she says. "When I think about how many things have changed for the better since I first started playing, it is clear that we have had great success and made a lot of progress. But we need to continue along this road, and I'm both proud and excited to be able to help."
Milestone for women's football
Jones was also sent a personal letter from the FIFA President in honour of her achievements, which read: "Your commitment to the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011 and to women's football in general have seen you travel all around the world and give women and girls the courage never to give up and to hold on to their footballing dreams".
In particular, the FIFA Women's World Cup held in Germany last year which the 39-year-old was heavily involved in as President of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) was described by Blatter as a "milestone in the history of women's football".
The FIFA Women's World Cup and three-time UEFA Women's European Championship-winner hung up her boots in 2007, five years before Prinz, and immediately settled into a new and successful career. As well as her work as head of the LOC, she has been involved in FIFA projects in Chile and Azerbaijan. She is also head of Women's, Girls' and Schools football for the German Football Association (DFB).
"It is a great honour for me to have been named as an ambassador for women's football. It fills me with great pride," said Jones in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "This new role is a wonderful challenge for me. I'm raring to go and looking forward to making a contribution to ensure that the positive development of women's football continues around the world in the future."
"Now that we have organised the incredibly successful 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Germany, it is the perfect opportunity to make women's football an even greater part of society in all four corners of the globe," Jones added. "Our aim is to have women's football played at the highest level on every continent. What we need to do now is to build on this and encourage even more countries to promote women's football and support their efforts."