Sun Wen: China’s greatest ever footballer


Sun Wen celebrates her 48th birthday today. To mark the occasion, GiveMeSport Women looks back on her momentous career.

Sun is one of the greatest female footballers of all time, enjoying an illustrious career which spanned from 1989 to 2006.

She started playing football at 10-years-old, and credits her father for her interest in the sport. It soon became clear that football would be more than a hobby for Sun, and she joined Shanghai in the Chinese women’s league in 1989, aged 16.


International career

Sun began to make a name for herself on the international stage soon after. She first played for China’s national team aged 17, and went on to appear at four FIFA Women’s World Cups.

During the 1999 World Cup in the United States, Sun scored seven goals and earned the Golden Boot accolade. She was also given the Golden Ball award. China lost the final in a penalty shoot-out with the hosts, but Sun still managed to cement her status as one of the best female footballers around.

During her international career, Sun helped China win the Asian Cup in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997. She later returned from retirement to lift the trophy once again in 2006.

Sun also has an Olympic silver medal in her trophy cabinet. She featured in the Chinese team which finished second to the US at Atlanta 1996.


FIFA Female Player of the Century

After her success at the World Cup in 1999, Sun was named FIFA’s Female Player of the Century in 2000 alongside American legend Michelle Akers.

In the same year, Sun was the first pick in the inaugural draft of the Women's United Soccer Association, the first ever professional paid league in women’s football. She played for Atlanta Beat until 2002, and was known for regularly visiting the houses of Chinese fans for dinner.

Sun announced she would leave WUSA in 2003 and return to Shanghai to prepare for the upcoming World Cup.



Sun retired for good in 2006 after winning the Asian Cup for the final time. She worked in journalism, advertising and educating before entering football administration, and is now the vice-president of the Chinese Football Association.

The 48-year-old hopes to contribute to the development of women’s football, having already made a significant mark as a player.

Happy birthday Sun Wen!

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