At the training camp for Germany’s national women’s football team in Bitburg, not far from the Luxembourg border, there’s a photographer trying to get a shot of the queen of European soccer.

Birgit Prinz isn’t playing along. The 33-year-old striker, the most prolific player in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, lets her teammates pose and waits until the circus is over before emerging from the clubhouse.

“For me it’s never been about personal goals,” Prinz remarks. “It’s always been about being part of this team.”

Her English is remarkable given that she rarely encounters an interview in anything other than her mother tongue. Such is the modest nature of acclaim granted to arguably the greatest women’s soccer player in the annals of the game.

Prinz, you see, is approaching her fifth World Cup. She has been the champion twice and holds the record for goals scored in World Cup matches with 14. She has played at four Olympics and won the bronze medal three times. For good measure, add three consecutive years as FIFA World Player of the Year from 2003-05 and 208 international matches in 16 years as the German stalwart.

Prinz has done it all.

Now she gets to compete in a World Cup at home and take her place as a much appreciated legend in a football-mad nation.

“I never had female role models when I was first playing this sport,” Prinz admits. “I looked up to the guys who played in the Bundesliga. They were my role models. Girls need role models, too. If I am one now, then that makes me happy.”

A practising physiotherapist and student of psychology who has been vocal in promoting the humanitarian aims of FIFA, Prinz has achieved all her goals and then some. Just ask former teammate Stefi Jones, the president and CEO of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 organizing committee.

“Birgit is my hero,” says Jones. “She’s not as fast as she once was and doesn’t score as much. She just makes everyone around her better.”

That’s what heroes do, and make no mistake, Prinz is football royalty.

She is the undisputed queen of football in this country and probably throughout the world. When she plays against Canada to open the World Cup at Olympic Stadium in Berlin before 70,000 fans, Prinz will finally receive the undivided attention of her loyal subjects.

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