Around the turn of the 21st century, Birgit Prinz was arguably the finest female footballer in Europe, if not the planet. Indeed, in 2003, at the peak of her powers, AC Perugia made an offer for her to play in the men’s Serie A. It was almost certainly a publicity stunt and Prinz declined. Yet the offer in itself reflected her status within the women’s game.
A powerful and athletic centre-forward with a killer instinct, she physically dominated her opponents and, in many ways, was ahead of her time. It was said that ‘every shot she took she expected to score, and heaven forbid if a team-mate failed to release the ball at the right time.’ She scored 128 goals in 214 appearances for Germany (both still records) and was the central figure in their domination of European football. During her career, she won two World Cups (2003, 2007), the European Championships on five occasions (1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009) and three Olympic bronze medals (2000, 2004, 2008).
Her physical prowess had seen her make her debut for Germany aged 16 in 1994, and a year later, she played in the World Cup Final, losing 1-0 to Norway; she remains the youngest player to play in a showpiece.
She was named FIFA Player of the Year in three consecutive years, 2003-05. She was also named Player of the Tournament in the 2003 World Cup and was its top scorer, winning the Golden Ball. She scored at total of 14 goals at World Cups.
Whereas much of women’s football in Europe was an amateur game, she and her German team-mates benefitted from playing at a semi-professional level. Her record at club level was spectacular. Between 1993 and 2011, she netted a goal a game – 282 in 282 – for a range of clubs, but mainly for FFC Frankfurt, with whom she won the European Cup on three occasions. In 2002, she played a season for Carolina Courage at full professional level, helping it win the Women’s United Soccer Association.
Prinz played for and captained Germany in the 2011 World Cup, who were the hosts. She retired a year later and went to the University of Frankfurt to study for a master’s degree in psychology. As of 2023, she was working as sports psychologist at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
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