Sport

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PROFILE

The rise of Brazil’s Marta underlines her supreme status as a global soccer star

The rise of Brazil’s Marta underlines her supreme status as a global soccer star
Marta of Brazil controls the ball during her Fifa Women's World Cup 2023 Group F match against Panama at Hindmarsh Stadium on 24 July 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo: Fred Lee / Getty Images)

Brazilian Marta is held in high regard by both her peers and soccer fans at large. With her glittering career nearing its culmination, can she add the World Cup to her plethora of accolades at the culmination of the 2023 showpiece?

Marta Vieira da Silva, or simply Marta as she is more popularly known, is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Man or woman. She has a plethora of accolades to back up this assertion too. Both at international and club level, as well as individually.

At club level — playing in countries such as her native Brazil as well as Sweden and the US — she has won domestic and continental trophies. Never passively either. She played a key role regularly as her teams stormed to silverware.

In the national colours of Brazil — which she has donned for two decades as of 2023 — she flourished as well. She has three Copa America gold medals with her country. Although an Olympic gold medal has proved to be elusive for herself and her compatriots, she boasts two silver medals from the Games.

Marta, World Cup

Marta of Brazil reacts during the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 Group F match between Brazil and Panama at Hindmarsh Stadium on 24 July 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo: Fred Lee / Getty Images)

Surprisingly, in spite of the history of Brazil’s men’s side at senior soccer World Cups (who have won a record five), the best the women’s team has managed was silver in 2007.

The consensus is that the powers that be, as is generally the case globally, do not offer enough support for the women’s wing of Brazilian soccer and that the success the side has managed had very little to do with the hierarchy of the Brazilian Football Confederation.

In fact, women in Brazil were banned from playing soccer for almost four decades between 1941 and 1979. This while the men’s team thrived and won three World Cups in that period. Even when the ban was lifted, entrenched attitudes around women and soccer persisted.

Since then, there has been steady change in the minds of Brazil’s masses. The likes of Cristiane, Formiga and Marta have played a pivotal role in altering attitudes.

Humble beginnings

Marta was born seven years after the ban on female footballers was lifted. Little did she know at that time she’d become a six-time winner of Fifa’s world player of the year gong, including winning it five times in a row between 2006 and 2010, before adding her most recent one in 2018.

Neither did she know that she would become a reference point for many girls and boys who dream of becoming professional soccer players. However, that’s what she is, thanks to her silky skills and tenacity. The latter trait also shines off the field.

Watch here to see Marta in action: Fifa Women’s World Cup Goals

As is the case with many players currently showcasing their skills and talent at the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, Marta ignited her love for the beautiful game by playing with the boys in her neighbourhood of Dois Riachos.

At just 14 years old, she caught the eye of scouts and was recruited to join Vasco Da Gama’s women’s side. Despite that wing of the team folding just two years after she joined, Marta continued her upward trajectory.

Marta

Marta of Brazil during her Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 Group F match against Panama at Hindmarsh Stadium on 24 July 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo: Fred Lee / Getty Images)

Eventually, she ended up at Swedish side Umeå IK in 2004. That’s where she truly stamped her authority at club level, while also demonstrating that she was a rare talent at national level.  

Almost two decades later, the 37-year-old has lived up to that billing. While also inspiring many aspiring women’s soccer players in the process. Though she still yearns for that World Cup gold medal.  

Passing the baton

In a moment of pure poetry — as Brazil opened their 2023 World Cup campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win over Panama on Monday — Marta came on as a substitute in the last 15 minutes.

She replaced the day’s hat-trick heroine Ary Borges, who is a part of the national team revolution as it moves past the influential generation of Marta and her now-retired peers.  

“Playing with Marta was a dream that I had. I managed to live this dream, but after you meet the human being Marta, you start to admire her even more,” Borges said after her hat-trick heroics versus Panama.

“She doesn’t even realise how much we admire her. We do things for various reasons, but she is one of those reasons,” added the Racing Louisville forward.

“She is truly a person who motivates us, a player that has lived through so many things that allow us to have the fruits of her work. So, sharing this moment with her is very special.”

The road ahead is set to be long and challenging. However, the feeling within the Brazil camp is that the team needs to win the World Cup this year. For those that have believed in the team over the years, as well as for Marta — who helped ignite that belief.

Whether they achieve this or not, it will not take away from the fact that Queen Marta took women’s soccer to the next level. Be it with what she did on the field (including scoring 17 all-time World Cup goals to date), as well as her influence off the pitch. DM

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