Full name: Mariel Margaret Hamm
Date of birth: 17/03/1972
The early years
Before David Beckham signed for LA Galaxy and was hailed as the saviour of soccer in the USA, Mia Hamm had done more for the sport in North America than any other player, male or female. Her extraordinary career has included a World Cup win, an induction in to the National Soccer Hall of Fame and more personal achievements include the creation of the successful Mia Hamm Foundation, which raises funds for bone marrow research.
Hamm was born in Selma, Alabama, on March 17th, 1972, and had a keen interest in several sports from an early age. She went to Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls, Texas, and became a permanent fixture in the school’s football team at the age of 12. At this point, she was still interested in several different sports, including basketball. However, two years later, Hamm decided to specialise in soccer. At the age of 15, she moved to North Virginia to attend the Lake Braddock Secondary School and that same year, became the youngest ever player to compete for the United States national soccer team, as a striker.
World Cup victory
Mia chose to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was perhaps the most important factor in the University soccer team’s four NCAA women’s championships in the early 1990s. Hamm’s impressive performances earned a deserved call-up to the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup, held in China. The USA had never won the tournament before but there was renewed optimism in the country, primarily due to the emergence of Hamm as a real footballing force. Their first group game was against an impressive Swedish side but the USA managed to overcome this challenge, with Hamm scoring a vital goal. A 5-0 win over Brazil in the following group game saw a second tournament goal from Hamm and a 3-0 win against Japan saw the USA top their group. She was also instrumental in the quarter-final thrashing of Chinese Taipei and the semi-final victory over Germany.
A tough Norway side awaited the USA in the final. A good goal from the prolific Michelle Akers in the 20th minute helped to calm the American nerves but Norway equalised just 9 minutes later. An inspired team performance in the second half eventually led to a 78th minute winner, from Akers. At the age of 19, this World Cup win saw Hamm become the youngest American woman ever to win the tournament.
Her final three years at North Carolina brought her the accolade of All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year award. 1993 and 1994 also saw Hamm awarded the ACC Female Athlete of the Year. In 1993 Mia also competed in the Summer Universiade as part of the U.S. Women’s national college team. Despite scoring six goals in the tournament and finishing as top scorer, Hamm was powerless as China beat the USA side in the final. Her graduation from college signalled an all-time record for goals scored in her conference (103), as well as the record for assists (72) and total points (278).
Between 1994 and 1998, Hamm won 5 successive U.S. Soccer Federation Female Athlete of the Year awards. She helped the national team to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, held in Atlanta. This success was, sadly, followed by tragedy, as Mia’s brother died as a result of a bone marrow disease shortly after the Olympics. This tragedy inspired Hamm to set up the Mia Hamm Foundation. The Foundation’s aim is to raise money for bone marrow research and also aid the progression of female sports programmes.
1999 was an extremely successful year for the Hamm. In May of that year, she scored her 108th goal in a match against Brazil in Florida. This goal broke the all-time international goal record. To mark this achievement, Nike decided to name the largest building on their corporate campus after the player. The FIFA World Cup also brought Hamm success, as the USA became world champions once again. She scored in 2 out of the 3 group games and was an influential part of the quarter-final and semi-final sides. The final, against China PR, was watched by over 90,000 spectators. Surprisingly, the match went to penalties and the USA won by 5 penalties to 4, with Hamm successfully converting her attempt.
Domestic football and the run-up to retirement
Although known mainly for her feats at international level, at the start of the new millennium, Hamm helped to found the Women United Soccer Association and played for the Washington Freedom for a total of 3 seasons. 2003 saw her team become WUSA Founder’s Cup Champions. Overall, Hamm played in 49 WUSA regular-season matches and 4 WUSA play-off matches, scoring an impressive 25 goals in the process.
In 2004, Hamm decided to announce her desire to retire after the Olympic Games. Several months prior to this announcement, she was one of two women to be named in the FIFA 100, a comprehensive list, chosen by Pele, of the top 125 living football players in the world. Her 259th international appearance came during a friendly match against Australia in July. This match also saw Hamm score her 151st international goal.
The 2004 Olympics saw Hamm lead her country to a gold medal and her fellow U.S. Olympians elected her to carry the American flag at the Athens Closing Ceremony. At the age of 32, Hamm retired from soccer, with 158 international goals, more than any other player in the history of the sport, male or female. 2007 brought another honour to the retired player, as she was proudly elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Mia married her childhood sweetheart, Christian Corry, in 1994 but the couple decided to divorce in 2001. Hamm married Nomar Garciaparra, in 2003 in California and on March 28th, 2007, she gave birth to twin daughters. She has also been involved in several sponsorship deals and has starred alongside Michael Jordan in televised advertisements for Gatorade.
- Inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame: 2008
- Inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame: 2007
- Women’s FIFA World Player of the Year: 2001, 2002
- Listed in FIFA’s 125 Best Living Players: 2004
- ACC Female Athlete of the Year: 1994, 1993
|North Carolina Tar Heels