For the fourth consecutive year, Brazilian maestro Marta is back
among the finalists for the FIFA Women's World Player award.
And after her spectacular showing at the FIFA Women's World Cup
China 2007, she is in with a great chance of holding on to the
coveted prize she picked up at the 2006 Gala. The gifted attacker
is currently enjoying one of the most fruitful spells of her
career, though the path to the summit of women's football has
not always been easy.
Battling against the odds is something this prodigious
21-year-old has grown used to since taking her first steps in the
game. Football may be a religion in her native country, but back in
the days when the young Marta discovered her passion for the sport,
girls were largely discouraged from playing, a standpoint shared by
Determined to pursue her dream, Marta left her hometown of
Dois Riachos at the age of 14 for the bright lights of Rio de
Janeiro, starting out at Vasco da Gama before making the move to
Sao Martins. In 2004, Europe came calling for the youngster, Marta
packing her bags once more and heading for Sweden.
Aged just 18 and far away from her loved ones in a land where
the language and weather were alien to her, the determined teenager
sought to overcome the many obstacles she faced by showing just
what she could do with a ball at her feet. When club side Umea
offered her the chance she had been denied at home, she was eager
to make the most of it.
And that is exactly what she did. Today, three years on, the
free-scoring forward is a world star. As well as the glittering
award she picked up in Zurich last December, the youngster has also
pocketed two Pan-American Games gold medals, a silver medal at the
Women's Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004 with the
Seleção, and a runners-up medal at China 2007, not to mention
winning the UEFA Cup with Umea.
Yet nothing has moved her more, perhaps, than the recognition
she received from her compatriots at the Estadio Maracana. It was
there, at the temple of Brazilian football, that the No10 left her
footprints in the Hall of Fame, becoming, in the process, the very
first woman to line up alongside national legends such as Pele,
Garrincha, Zico, Romario and Ronaldo, to name but a few.
Such is the sheer range of gifts at her disposal, it is
difficult to describe what makes Marta such a special player. A
mean turn of pace combined with the maziest of dribbling skills can
unhinge even the tightest of defences. And with her innate
goalscoring instinct, fearsome shooting ability, unselfish passing
and willingness to help team-mates out of tight spots, she has
become the complete player.
A reserved character off the pitch, she is the leader of the
Brazil pack on it, bubbling with energy and seemingly immune to
fatigue. Her only weakness is perhaps in the air, standing as she
does a mere 1.60 metres tall.
The rest of the world caught its first glimpse of Marta when
she took part in the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship
Canada 2002 at the tender age of 16. And a year later she was back
in the global spotlight at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA
Seen as a promising rookie on those occasions, by the time
Athens 2004 came around she was the undisputed star of the team and
the foundation of their gold medal hopes - hopes that were
ultimately thwarted by USA in an extremely close final. It was a
role she occupied once more at the FIFA U-19 Women's World
Championship Thailand 2004, and although Brazil limped home in
fourth place, Marta's stunning individual performances earned
her the adidas Golden Ball.
A brilliant 12 months was capped by her third place at the
2004 FIFA World Player Gala. A year later she had climbed into
second place, duly completing her rise to the top in 2006.
Clutching the much-coveted award in her hands, Marta announced her
goals for the year ahead, and although her club missed out in the
UEFA Cup final, the Brazilian sensation rediscovered that winning
feeling when the girls in the canary-yellow jerseys struck gold at
this year's Pan-American Games.
The FIFA Women's World Cup 2007 seemed set to cement
Marta's status at the very top of the women's game. Though
she may have missed out on a winners' medal, her performance
throughout the event on Chinese soil was nothing short of
Even taking into account her penalty miss at a crucial point
in the final against Germany, Marta was undoubtedly the star of the
show. Her seven-goal haul earned her the adidas Golden Shoe and she
also took home the adidas Golden Ball award - 51 per cent of voters
choosing her as the tournament's finest player.
Perhaps the match that will live longest in the collective
memory was the semi-final clash against the USA. Marta delivered a
sublime display, packed with skill and competitiveness, and capped
it all with two superbly-taken goals. Having earned the admiration
of football fans across the globe, the question is: what is next