Football fans everywhere are in a state of mourning following the retirement of one of the greatest No. 9s of all time, last week. No, I am not talking about Pele, Maradonna, Gerd Muller or even Wayne Rooney, but about Mia Hamm. Mia who? Ever since the box office hit, Bend It Like Beckham, Mia Hamm has gained global prominence, fame that was previously restricted to the United States and fans of women’s soccer.
The daughter of an Air Force colonel, who discovered his passion for the game while stationed in Italy, Mia was encouraged to play by her father from a young age and developed into the best woman footballer the world has ever seen. Not only has she won two World Cups in 1991 and 1999 and two Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004, she also holds both the international goal-scoring record (158 in 276 games), regardless of sex and is the youngest player ever to represent America, making her debut against China in 1987 aged just 15. She is also the first athlete of either sex to be voted Sportsperson of the Year on three consecutive occasions between 1994 and 1996 in the US.
She has been named ‘FIFA Woman Player of the Year’ and appeared in People Magazine’s, 50 Most Beautiful People In The World’. The list is endless. Now 32, Mia Hamm intends to devote her time to family and golf. I have met her several times over the last four years and she is fun, intelligent and down-to-earth. Her star quality comes from within, not a hint of the allures and behaviour unfortunately found, all too often, in her male colleagues. Mia’s retirement is a major loss to the game, to her fans and to me personally.