At the age of only 23, Brazil’s Marta has already made sure of her place in the annals of the women’s game. The standard bearer for the growth of the sport in her country, she has already taken her talents to faraway places such as Sweden and the USA. Having gone back home to help Santos become the first team to win the women’s version of the Copa Libertadores, the peerless forward has returned to Zurich for the sixth time to collect her fourth straight FIFA Women’s World Player award.
After celebrating her latest coronation, she spoke to FIFA.com about the last 12 months, her expectations for 2010, and her hopes of returning to the Gala for many more years to come.
FIFA.com: Marta, congratulations on this unprecedented achievement. What is your reaction to being named FIFA Women's World Player once again?
I'm surprised. I want to thank to God for everything that is happening to me in my life. I also want to thank my football collegues in Los Angeles Sol, Santos and Brazil. This is an individual award but without my collegues, I could not win anything. I am very happy to be the first women to have won the award for a fourth time and I hope it helps women's football to grow.
As you say, no-one has achieved this before. How does it feel to have made history?
It’s a landmark in my career and in my life. Me winning the title for a fourth time means a lot for women’s football in Brazil too. This achievement isn’t going to change the way I think though. I’m going to carry on working hard so that I can come back here as many times as possible.
How did you feel when you heard your name being read out again?
There are a lot of things that go through your head, like many of the things that have happened to you in your career. It’s incredible. You can never prepare what you’re going to say and I just came out with the first words that came into my head. It’s a historic moment and I hope I can experience it many more times. The most important thing is that hard work brings recognition with it.
This is the sixth time you have been to the Gala. What are your feelings at being here in Zurich again?
It’s an amazing experience for me to be involved at this party again. There are a lot of footballers who would like to be in my place and I feel very privileged to be here for a sixth time. I’m very happy.
What do you think about your rivals tonight?
They are all excellent players who have also had their moments of glory. They deserve to be here. It’s an honour to share this stage with such superb footballers.
You switched to the US league in 2009. How is that working out for you?
It’s been a very positive experience so far. It is the home of women’s football and we had a lot of success on an individual and team level. It was a fabulous season for us but we are still looking to the future. We want to keep developing so that the success of the league can make an impact not just there but in the women’s game around the world.
All that was missing was the league title.
Yes, you could say that. We had an excellent regular season and were way ahead at the end of it. We won that part of the league easily and the only disappointing thing was that we couldn’t go on and lift the championship. But the best team doesn’t always come first and you have to congratulate the champions. Still, even though we didn’t win, it was a very positive year and I’m sure 2010 will be even better.
You have had a very busy 12 months. Just after that you went to play in the first women’s Copa Libertadores with Santos.
It was wonderful for me to go back to Brazil. I got a great reception after having played abroad for so long, and the first Libertadores was so important for the development of women’s football in my country. It attracted some great crowds too. The fans really turned out at lots of the stadiums and that made us so happy. Luckily for us we were able to finish it all off by winning the competition. Then we went on and won the inaugural Brazilian Cup, so it couldn’t have been a better year.
There has been a big improvement in the women’s game in Brazil since you started playing, has there not?
We have been working for a long time to get to where we are now in Brazil, with coverage in the media, sponsorship and crowds at the stadiums. Things have really changed now and we are delighted about that. Girls like Cristiane, Formiga and I have been playing abroad, but now we’ve had the chance to come back and help women’s football grow. Hopefully when we go abroad again we can relax in the knowledge that all this success will continue.
You have played in Sweden and the USA. Which of the two is easier to adapt to?
The weather is better in the States. There are a lot of Latin Americans there too, which makes everything easier for me and makes me feel closer to Brazil. But I have to say that I have a passion for Sweden. I spent five years there and I owe the country a lot. Sometimes I even miss the cold (laughs), though I’m very much at home in Los Angeles.
And finally, what plans do you have for 2010?
To really get involved at Los Angeles, where I want to finish the two years I have left on my contract. I’d like to win team and individual titles as well as the championship, which we just missed out on this time. With the national team I’d like to see us become South American champions. We’re not thinking about the World Cup just yet though. We need to make sure we qualify first.