Marta: World Cup contenders for women Brazil is planning for the future without a ‘idol’.
For the past two decades, when the topic of Brazilian women’s football comes up, one outstanding talent comes to mind: Marta.
The attacker came off the bench in the dying minutes of Brazil’s 4-0 triumph against Panama to kick off their Women’s World Cup campaign, her sixth worldwide tournament appearance.
In Australia and New Zealand, she hopes to become the first player – male or female – to score at six World Cups, adding to her record of 17 World Cup goals scored in 21 matches.
Marta’s 37-year-old imprint on Brazilian culture, however, has been more significant than the statistics.
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“My wife idolises her,” South American football specialist Tim Vickery told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily. “My wife’s brother prevented her from playing football.”
“Her father would have thrashed her if he found out she was trying to play football.” Women in working-class Brazil don’t do that.
“Marta has altered that. To play football, she had to compete with her brothers. But, with the help of [former Brazil internationals] Formiga and Cristiane, she has legitimized women’s football in Brazil to the point where the country is now behind it like never before.”
Brazil’s TV Globo said that an average of 11.5 million viewers watched the game versus Panama on Monday, which began at 8 a.m. local time, while civil servants are permitted to arrive at work late when the national team is playing.
In the midst of the growth and goodwill around women’s football, it’s easy to forget how the sport was viewed in the past for many people throughout the world.
Women’s football was technically prohibited in Brazil between 1941 and 1979, but it was neglected and ignored even after that.
The current women’s football league in the country did not begin until 2013, with a previous effort at a national competition spanning from 1993 to 2001.
That, according to Vickery, does not even begin to convey the story of how the country, which has produced five World Cup-winning men’s teams, treated its female players.