Marta, the Pelé in a skirt!

Pele himself dubbed her "Pele in skirts", though as she prepares for the women's World Cup, Brazilian star Marta is, unlike the national icon, still chasing a breakthrough team world crown.

It's the only gap in a sparkling resume built in a sport which has fascinated her since she first saw women's football on television as a 10-year-old.

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Born on February 19, 1986, in Dois Riachos, Brazil, soccer star Marta won the first of five straight FIFA Player of the Year Awards in 2006 while playing in Sweden, and was the top scorer and MVP of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Marta resumed her pro career in Sweden after a three-year stint in the United States, and serves as an advocate for growth of the women's game.

After last year’s disastrous ending to Brazil’s World Cup campaign, when the hosts suffered an embarrassing 7-1 defeat to Germany, the football-mad country is desperate for some good news and will hope the women can succeed where the men failed miserably.

But Marta insists there is no extra pressure to make up for last year’s heartbreak:

“I don’t see it as extra pressure because I’m used to it”, she explains.

“I’m very competitive and throughout my life the biggest pressure has been the one I place on myself.

"In Brazil, there is this common feeling that we always need to be first, so besides myself being competitive, Brazil is just as competitive. So this is something that is very normal for me.

I want to take the advantage of playing the World Cup for my country, for my national team, and use this to make us very competitive for the Olympics. So it’s an extra advantage not extra pressure to do well and bring the gold medal for Brazil.”

Marta and the prejudice against women in football

"There's still prejudice and that resistance regarding women not only on female football but in various activities. Men think that women are a bit fragile to perform some types of activities or don't have the ability and aren't strong enough.

That doesn't exist anymore. Women have shown they have capabilities in every sense better than men a lot of time, but it's that whole macho thing."Football in Brazil is seen as a masculine sport, even with a lot of people accepting the female sport. There's still a percentage that thinks like in the old days."

Despite there being undoubtedly a long way to go, a lot of progress has been made.

Watch a short set of interviews with the Brazilian female players ahead of the Female World Cup in 2015 - in Portuguese.

On the reputation of female football

To grow Brazilian football, I would wish to get more support from the federation. It has improved a lot in the past years, but I still think it should be more. It is a long-term investment that is needed and doesn’t help if only the current senior team is being supported.

We need the youth teams to become more professionally organised, so more girls in our country can make their dream of being a footballer come true. And for worldwide football I would love to see more women being the manager of male teams. This is still a very uncommon scenario, while many men coach female teams. I think this has a lot of potential to change and to become more accepted overall.

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My work as a UN ambassador for the empowerment of women of course helps to support female football around the globe, but it is also a lot more than that. I have had the chance to visit Sierra Leone for example, and spoke to university students, civil society groups and female parliament members.

"Together we work on spreading the message ‘When women succeed, we all win’, and I truly believe in this. We have to be patient, but in the long run I think our work will become fruitful and rewarding for women worldwide."

Read more:

Marta Biography

Complete Interview

Marta World Record


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