By Yemi Babalola, Lagos.
Mia Hamm a former American soccer player is our amazon for the week, she was active for U.S. women’s national soccer team for 17 years and her heroics is one that would not be forgotten anytime soon.
Born on March 17, 1972, in Selma, Alabama, as Mariel Margaret Hamm. She is the fourth of a military family of six children. Due to her parents occupation (her dad was an Air Force pilot) she moved around the world and it was during one of such moves, she developed interest in football (soccer in American English) in Florence, Italy. She joined her first soccer team at age 5 back home in the United States and was coached by her father.
At the age of 15, Hamm had mastered her footballing skills that she became the youngest female football player for the United States national team in 1987, during the U.S Olympics Festival. A period during which she succeeded as a football player at her Junior High School and horned her footballing skills. She has been described as, an athletic, technically gifted striker, who utilizes her speed, skill, footwork, stamina, and ability on the ball, as well as being very consistent.
Hamm attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and helped her school team win four consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s championship titles. In her time at the school, her team lost just one of the 95 games she played in.
In 1991, Hamm took a break to prepare for the inaugural FIFA Women’s World held in China, a competition that the United States Women’s team won and saw her becoming the youngest team member in history to win the World Cup at the age of 19. From whence, Hamm and her teammates, five years later, including Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly, secured the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. A feat they replicated in 2004.
Hamm is largely considered the best female soccer player in history. She set a new record for most international goals scored when she scored her 108th goal for the U.S. team, succeeding Italian player Elisabetta Vignotto. Hamm held that title until June 2013, when fellow American player Abby Wambach broke the record.
Looking at Hamm’s on field achievements, she has won the FIFA Women’s World Cup title twice with the U.S national team in 1991 and 1999 playing a remarkable role in both years. At the same competition, she won Bronze twice with the national team at the 1995 and 2003 edition of the World Cup. Her heroics is not restricted to the World Cup alone as she has two Olympics Gold medal (1996 and 2004) and one Silver medal (2000) in her medal cachet.
Individually, Hamm has won the USA’s “Female Athlete of the Year” award consecutively five times from 1994-1998. She was named Most Valuable Player of the Women’s Cup in 1995. Hamm also has three ESPY’s awards, which includes the “Soccer Player of the Year” and Female Athlete of the Year categories.
Hamm in 2001 was among the list of 125 Greatest Living Soccer Players, alongside her compatriot Michelle Akers, which saw them becoming the only two women and only Americans on the list.
After the 2004 Athens Olympics, on May 14, 2004, Hamm announced her retirement at the age of 32 with a record 158-goals scored for the United States national team. She became the first woman inducted into the World Football Hall of Fame, located in Pachuca, Mexico. Hamm was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame immediately she became eligible in 2007.
Hamm is happily married to Nomar Garciaparra, a former American professional baseball player. She is a mother to three children, two of which are twin girls. She is currently managing her foundation the Mia Hamm Foundation, which is dedicated to bone marrow research, after her brother, Garrett, died of complications from a rare blood disease called aplastic anemia shortly after the 1996 Olympics. Hamm also focusing on women empower. As a sportswoman, she also hosts an annual Celebrity soccer game in support of her foundation.
Mia Hamm is known for this quote, which is a lesson that everyone can learn from, ‘I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion’. Hamm is indeed an Amazon and one whose impact cannot be undermined.