Marinette Pichon (France)
Born: 26 November 1975 in Bar-sur-Aube
France career: 112 international appearances (81 goals)
With her formidable goal-scoring and determination to stand her ground, Marinette Pichon certainly made her mark in a career that produced no shortage of good memories. Moreover, from her debut in 1992 to hanging up her boots in 2007, she steadfastly contributed to the growth of the women’s game in France at a time when it garnered much less media attention.
Her first notable feat was to steer the club nearest to her heart, Saint-Memmie Olympique, into the French top flight. Then in 2002, she became the first French woman to play in the highly regarded North American league, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), where she was voted Most Valuable Player in the colours of Philadelphia Charge. After returning to her homeland in 2004, she picked up her first team titles in the form of a league and cup double with Juvisy, the club where she would end her playing days.
“I don’t think I’m aware of the impact I’ve had,” Pichon told FIFA.com in 2016. “I’m still amazed when people ask me for photos, talk to me about my career and thank me. I don’t truly realise everything I’ve done, which is just as well, really.”
Though quintessentially humble, there was nothing modest about her numbers with the national team. With Pichon leading the way, Les Bleues gave their fans their first moments of joy by qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2003. She went on to be capped 112 times and scored a remarkable 81 goals – a feat still unsurpassed in French international football - both men’s and women’s. The 42-year-old made her mark not just on the pitch, but in the history of French football.
French League Championship in 2006 with Juvisy
Winner of Women’s French Cup in 2005 with Juvisy
WUSA Most Valuable Player in 2003 with Philadelphia Charge
112 appearance for France, scoring 81 goals
"With me and football, it was love at first sight. I remember being out strolling with my mum as a kid… and we heard people shouting in a nearby stadium. I wanted to see what was going on and it was a football match, and I loved it. I started out with AS Brienne, a small club not far from my home. My idols at the time were Jean Pierre Papin and Filippo Inzaghi in the men’s game, and Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers in ours.
Then at 17 I joined Saint-Memmie Olympique, a modest, family club that had the advantage of being less than 80 km from where I lived. That suited me perfectly. It was there that I learned the ropes and had my first great moment as a player with our promotion to Division 1. It was also where I got my first call-up to the national team. Later came my move to the USA. I must admit that crossing the Atlantic to play was a bit stressful and scary for me, but in the end, it all worked out quite well. That was a great experience for me.
With Les Bleues, we weren’t as highly ranked as today’s team, but we still had quite a decent level and made the most of our assets. We were less athletic than other countries, especially Germany and the USA, but we had a certain tenacity to our play as well as quality with the likes of Corinne Diacre at the back and Sandrine Soubeyrand in midfield.
My fondest memory is also tied in with the national team, when we qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2003 thanks to a 1-0 win over England at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard. The biggest source of pride for me was being able to pull on that jersey with the Gallic rooster on the badge. Even today, when I hear the Marseillaise I get goose bumps. And while it is still nice to be the record goalscorer, I’d honestly like to see the record broken – as that would mean our national team was performing really well. It’s ten years since I hung up my boots, so it’s high time it happened!”