Stadiums split as Marta reigns

Some are knowledgeable, some insightful, but it is an overwhelming passion for football that is the most distinguishing feature of the comments that FIFA.com receives in response to our popular 'Have Your Say' topics. This week, prior to kicking off the current debate on who should succeed Steve McClaren, we asked you to give your views on two very different issues: the best stadium in the world and the greatest-ever female footballer.

In the latter, a clear winner quickly emerged, but the same could not be said for the former, where users put forward such a variety of their own favourites that no definitive conclusion could be reached. In truth, however, that was always likely to be the outcome in a debate that kicks off this week's Have Your Say review.

Standout stadium: Brazil and Scotland praised
Over 250 comments poured in on this one, and by the end there had been almost as many potential contenders ventured. For a time it appeared that, if there was going to be a winner, it would come from Brazil, where the fabled Maracana was locked in a battle for supremacy with Sao Paulo's Morumbi.

Strangely, it was an American, Bestguile, who helped kick off this debate: "Which stadium has seem so many great players as Maracana?" he wrote. "A place where Pele scored his 1000th goal, where Zico, Romario, Garrincha, Romario and Ronaldo and many others great players have played, scored and made the fans jump, cry and scream for the love of this amazing sport called football."

Brazil's best stadiums might have featured prominently, but if there was a single city that dominated debate, it was Glasgow. Scotland's football capital boasts three superb arenas in Celtic Park, Ibrox and the national stadium, Hampden, and there were plenty of users ready and willing to state the case for each. One Rangers-supporting user, amron87, nominated Ibrox but was objective enough to admit that: "Our nearest and fiercest rivals Celtic equally have one of the finest stadiums not just in Scotland but in the world... Hampden gives us three of the best stadiums for atmosphere, intimidation and passion."

There was also an abundance of support for another of the world's most atmospheric arenas, the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Iranian alialavi wrote of his country's national stadium: "When Japan had to play in the Azadi in 2005, at least a 120,000 spectators were inside at 10am and the match was scheduled I think for 5 or 6pm. And more than 200,000 were standing outside close doors that early in the morning! I would love to see the world's best compete in the Azadi. I don't think any team in the world could perform as well as they do elsewhere."

Fittingly, in the build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Preliminary draw, one South African user, mathabatha, opted to look forward by writing: "I think Soccer City in South Africa will be one of the greatest stadiums in the world when it's completed in 2009, the stadium will reflect all the African flair."

Women's legends: No match for Marta
It might have proved impossible for our users to reach a consensus on the issue of the world's foremost stadium, but they encountered no such problems in crowning their choice as the greatest ever women's footballer. It was expected that Birgit Prinz, Mia Hamm et al would run Marta close, but it quickly became clear that the brilliant young Brazilian would emerge as a runaway winner. "She is the Pele of Women's Football," wrote American user Athos.87, one of many backers. "Brazilian women currently have the same if not greater skill than the men."

The likes of Prinz and Sun Wen performed surprisingly poorly, meanwhile, polling only a couple of votes between them, and yet Marta would almost certainly have encountered a challenge had the US vote not been split between two of the women's game's legendary pioneers: Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers.

The Americans' current star, Abby Wambach, also received a degree of support, but it was her striking predecessor, Akers, who earned the most lavish praise from those who remembered the courageous forward in her peerless pomp. "There hasn't been anyone as dominant as her in the midfield or striker role," insisted jd6885. "She was a ferocious competitor, never gave up even when she came down with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. To fight through the mind-numbing pain and fatigue that comes with CFIDS and to play at the level she played is a truly remarkable feat for any human being."

Predictably, Hamm established an even wider base of support, so much so that the American icon left as the closest challenger to the dominant Marta. Her supporters, and there were plenty of them, even went as far as to claim that Hamm was a more rounded player than the much-vaunted Brazilian.

As bendi999 wrote: "If the question was, who is the flashiest ball handler and scorer, then it would most likely be Marta with Mia and Prinz just behind. But the question is: who is the greatest player? That means all-round player. Mia was great everywhere on the field, supporting her team-mates, taking opponents out of the game, scoring or assisting, everything. Her situational awareness was second to none."

A big thank you to all who contributed their comments to these topics. The debate on who should be the next England manager continues to rage on, meanwhile, so why not have your say on that by putting forward your choice for arguably the toughest job in football.