I have always admired Brazil’s Marta Vieira Da Silva aka Marta, first seeing her amazing skills at work in the 2003 World Cup.
A will o’ wisp tirelessly dribbling, creating chances with her pin point passing, ability to coolly and calmly take penalty kicks, marked her out as a talent to watch. She was a human dynamo. scoring 3 goals in Brazil’s entry into the quarterfinals losing to eventual runners up Sweden, 2-1. At just 17, Marta was in the vanguard of a group of players fighting her country’s skepticism towards women’ soccer.
At age 18, she packed her bags for Umea to start her professional career defying her family, a language barrier, and the harsh winter and to score 63 goals in 3 seasons and lead them to a UEFA championship.
In the three years since she has garnered almost every conceivable accolade possible becoming the 2004 U-20 World Cup Golden Ball winner, the 2006 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and helping Brazil win the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, and the U20 Brazil team win against the US in the 2007 Pan American Games finals in front of almost 70,000 at the Estadio Maracana. Brazil destroyed the USA, 5-0 with Marta scoring a brace.
It was Marta’s dazzling display with 12 goals that shone a torch on the women’s squad and captured the hearts of her countrymen. At the Maracana there were banners that read “I didn’t see Pele, but I saw Marta” and “Marta is better than Kaka.”
Marta’s stellar performance was recognized as she was accepted into the Hall of Fame becoming in the process, the very first woman to line up alongside national legends such as Pele, Zico, Garrincha, Ronaldo and Romario, to name but a few. Her footprints were marked in cement alongside these greats at the hallowed walkways of the Estadio Maracana. Nothing must have satisfied her more than being compared to Pele, the greatest living player as fans called her ‘Pele with skirts.’ Almost single handedly she has changed her country’s attitude and has made it fashionable to follow women’s soccer, akin to the adoration that the US women’s team inspires.
This playmaker has now set her sights on the World Cup and she is hoping that Brazil can pull off the ultimate prize. At a diminutive 1.60 meters she gives up precious inches to players like Abby Wambach, Birgit Prinz, and the more physical US and European teams but makes up for it through her fearsome talent. In Marta, women’s soccer has its complete player.