Messi, Ronaldo, Maradona, Ronaldinho, Platini, Pele…
All of them are players who have become legends of this sport called “football”. But, as you may know, there are also other legendary players in this sport, and they should have the recognition they deserve. Of course, we are talking about their female counterparts.
Women’s football started really earlier, but unfortunately, it didn’t have official until 1969, when The Women’s Football Association (WFA) was formed. Since then, Women’s football growth and development within Europe remain consistent.
Understandably it is still far from the strength of the men’s game but I think that women football players also deserves its own list of great players.
5. Sun Wen
Sun Wen was is a Chinese professional football player. She previously captained the China women’s national football team and the Atlanta Beat of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA).
During China’s golden age of football, Sun Wen became her team’s go-to player when they needed a goal. The Chinese international certainly didn’t disappoint, connecting 106 times in 152 international matches. Sun, who had the ability to make up assists for her team-mates, was so good that she pulled off the rarest of doubles at a major tournament.
At the 1999 Women’s World Cup, she earned the Golden Ball and Golden Boot, sharing the prize with the Brazilian Marta. Sun’s goals didn’t only come in quantity, but quality too.
After the Chinese striker scored a spectacular, 32-yard free kick in China’s 1-1 draw against the USA at the Sydney Olympics, April Heinrichs, the American head coach at that time, gave Sun high praise: “I’d pay for her to come to play in the United States in the WUSA,” she said. “She’s so well-rounded. She’s composed and a great leader who leads by example for 90 minutes.”
Sun’s mobility that game was hindered by a brace and bandage wrapped around her left knee. Yet, she found ways to make life difficult for the USA. Sun never won a major tournament, as China finished second to the US in the 1996 Olympics and was runner-up to her rivals, losing in a shootout at the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. But that never stops her, making into the top 5 of women’s greatest players in football history.
4. Birgit Prinz
Birgit Prinz was a difficult player to mark because she knew when to shoot, and she combined a physical presence with impressive pace.
She demonstrated that in her international debut at 16, striking the game-winner in the 89th minute, 17 minutes after coming on as a substitute. A spectacular impact. It wasn’t a surprise that Germany won the 2003 and 2007 Women’s World Cup, with Prinz earning the Golden Ball in the former and the Silver Ball in the latter. In 214 international appearances, she found the net 128 times.
While her professional career was rocketing at an international level, at club level was also outstanding. She scored 282 goals in as many matches for FSV Frankfurt, FFC Frankfurt and the Carolina Courage. Her trophy case is one of the biggest in the list, with three FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year honours, in 2002, 2003 and 2004 consecutively.
She was also named German Player of the Year eight years in the run. She retired in 2011 at the age of 34. A furious legend.
3. Michelle Akers
On third place, I decided to go with one of the greatest and more magic players of all time, Michelle Akers.
She defined not one, but two, positions in women’s soccer, leaving a great legacy in women’s soccer. In her starting days, Akers was a lethal striker. Her speed was out of this world because she could out-run defenders with her long stride.
She struck twice in the first Women’s World Cup final in 1991, including the game-winner in the final minutes, a 2-1 triumph over Norway. After she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome in 1994, Akers began a second life as a defensive midfielder, preventing goal opportunities instead of finishing them.
She helped the US to obtain the 1996 Olympic gold medal and the 1999 World Cup crown as well. There was no surprise when Akers was named FIFA’s Female Player of the 20th Century along with China’s Sun Wen. In the USA’s second international match ever in 1987, Akers scored the team’s first goal and went on from there. She retired just before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
We would never know what more magic Akers could have produced if she didn’t have to be struck down by her illness. A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Akers retired at the age of 34, having scored 105 times in 153 international games.
2. Mia Hamm
In the second place, we have another USA star…
Mia Hamm, was an American professional soccer player, two-time Olympic gold medallist, and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She hailed as a soccer icon, playing as a forward for the United States women’s national soccer team from 1987–2004.
Hamm also was the face of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the first professional women’s soccer league in the United States, where she played for the Washington Freedom.
Hamm, who finished with a world-record 158 international goals when she retired in 2004, was a double threat. Pacey and skilful, she was normally a forward but often played like a midfielder. If defenders allowed her to run inside, she would clearly score a goal.
Her skill, vision and innate scoring ability made her the most dangerous and the best-known women’s player of her generation. Hamm, who made her international debut at 15 in 1987, earned 275 caps while starring for the USA. She won the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year the first two years of the award in 2001 and 2002.
As a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Hamm also played a vital role for two Women’s World Cup winning teams in 1991 and 1999, converting a penalty in a shootout in the latter final. Finally, as mentioned earlier, she was also part of two Olympic gold-medal winning sides, in 1996 and 2004, and earned a silver medal in 2000.
And finally… The number one spot is not for other than Marta. It should be no surprise that Brazil gave the world two of the greatest players, male and female. Pele established his legacy years ago. But what Marta can do…
Is out of this planet. She’s an alien!
Marta Vieira da Silva is still in the process of forging her legacy as the planet’s most talented player. Marta, nicknamed “Pele in skirts” by the Brazilian master, can do it all.
The world has lost track of how many times she has turned a defender around and left her in the dust. That includes dribbling astonishing foes with her superior skill, creating goals thanks to her vision, and scoring them thanks to a firm desire to succeed.
Her personal awards are remarkable, earning the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year five consecutive times, from 2006 to 2010. She also won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 2007 Women’s World Cup and is the competition’s all-time scoring leader with 15 goals. That’s why I decide to put her on the top, as an example of how everyone can achieve their dreams if they give it all to succeed.