Finding adjectives that do her justice is no easy task. Year after year, Marta continues to weave her magic to the point that, just weeks before her 25th birthday, the Brazilian is already heralded as a legend of the game.
After being voted FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year for the fifth successive time on 10 January, Marta spoke of her aims in 2011, a year she hopes will see her win one of the few prizes still to elude her. “I’m dreaming of securing a [major] title with the national team,” she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. A fervent admirer of the great Rivaldo, Marta has won countless individual accolades and club honours, but on the international stage has had to make do with a world runners-up spot and two Olympic silver medals – scant reward for a player of her standing.
These days, the diminutive Brazilian can be found sporting the famous No10 of Santos, although she yesterday agreed a deal to return to USA's WPS - a league in which she has starred for the past two seasons - with Western New York Flash. And though she is determined to continue her work promoting the women’s game in her homeland, for Marta, the biggest challenge in 2011 will be the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany.
FIFA.com: As the finest exponent of the women’s game for the last five years, how do you stave off complacency and keep motivated?
Marta: Well, every year the accolade has meant something different to me, although it’s always a great thrill. I think staying at the top is even harder than getting there. For me, there are always new things to learn and ways I can improve.
Where do you find the inspiration?
In my life, my career, my family and the challenges I face, and also in the women’s game, which is still not a force globally. We still have work to do to get it equally established everywhere. Every time I cross the white line, all I’m thinking about is giving the best of me and bringing a little joy to those watching. I want to win every game and strive for the best possible result. I’m competitive but always joyful, always happy.
Germany’s Fatmire Bajramaj, a fellow nominee for this year’s player of the year award, has said you’re her idol. How does that make you feel?
It’s very special when one of your adversaries pays you that kind of tribute. I’m greatly honoured. I’m happy to be a positive influence or inspiration for her and, above all, to be a similar role model for children.
Brazil have been one of the best teams in the world in recent years, but what do you think is needed for you to go on and win a major title?
The obstacles are the same they’ve always been. Not all the Brazil players are at top clubs, nor do they have a year-round programme. Moreover, many aren’t in a really competitive league, like the one myself, Cristiane or Formiga play in. Most of our squad play in Brazil, where we don’t have a year-long football calendar, in contrast to other leading countries like Germany, the USA and Sweden. We need to be following the example set by these countries in establishing a top domestic competition that will enable us to take that last step.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007 ended in tears when A Seleção lost the final to Germany. Could it be a different story this year on German soil?
Let’s hope so! For a long time now, we have shown we have a wealth of talent in our ranks. We’ve reached two Olympics finals and one world one. Now, the time has come to win a title.
So you’re convinced the team is ready to go all the way?
We have a lot of talent and a good mix between youth and experience, so we’re capable of winning. That said, we still have a lot of hard work and sacrifice ahead of us, even before the tournament gets underway.
Which new Brazil players should we keep an eye out for?
There are some very young players to watch for, like my Santos team-mates Thais and Maurine. The latter has already played for the senior team and is in scintillating form. For me, she’s Brazil’s best player right now. There’s also Erika. These girls were fringe players back in 2007 and 2008, but today most are first team regulars.
How has it been working with new coach Kleiton Lima?
He’s a very good coach, extremely intelligent. I may favour keeping more veterans in the squad for the sake of experience, whereas he feels the time is right to open the doors to a new generation, but we’re all united in this new phase and focused solely on doing well in Germany.
And your wish for 2011?
Obviously that would be to win the World Cup with the team. That’s my dream and an ambition I have to fulfil.
Lastly, can you update us on your work as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador?
My role is to work for the most disadvantaged people and help defend women’s rights. I have a few trips coming up to Mozambique in that regard. I‘m very proud to be linked with those issues, and it’s an honour to be able to lend a hand. Football is not just a sport but an international passion, and we have to use its influence to give a good example to others and, above all, to bring joy to the people.