The women’s game in Brazil may have taken giant strides in recent years, thanks in large measure to the inspirational talents of Marta, but that progress could not have come to place without the solid foundations laid by the previous generation of Brazilian performers. Leading the latter group was another gifted No10 in the shape of Sisleide Lima do Amor, better known as Sissi, who like Marta started out by playing street football with the boys in her neighbourhood.

“Anything would do as a makeshift ball: oranges, rolled-up socks, even the heads I'd rip off my dolls to be able to play football,” said the gifted former midfielder, who left home at the tender age of 14 to pursue her dream and went to live in digs at a professional club. It would prove a wise decision and the start of a 25-year playing career, during which she helped Brazil go from women’s football minnows to serious contenders for the game's top honours.

A clear example of this trend came at the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 1999, when Sissi was the driving force of the Canarinhas squad which finished third, while helping herself to a share of the adidas Golden Boot – along with China PR’s Sun Wen – in the process. At the following year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney, A Seleção continued their ascension by reaching the semi-finals, though on this occasion a place on the podium was denied them after a 2-0 defeat by Germany in the bronze-medal match.

Yet over and above these fine results, Sissi and Co also prepared the ground for the next generation of Brazilian players, thus paving the way for Olympic silver-medal successes at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 as well as a runners-up spot at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007. “Sissi was clearly a tremendous inspiration for many Brazilian girls,” said experienced coach Rene Simoes, in charge of that Seleção squad in Athens.

After appearances at three editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup (1991, 1995 and 1995) and two Olympic Games (1996 and 2000), in 2001 Sissi made the move to United States’ football. And once stateside she continued to work her midfield magic while cutting her coaching teeth in a variety of youth-team roles.

"I have taken so much from football that I want to give something back,” said the Canarinha icon, who in 2009 and at the age of 42 turned out for US outfit FC Gold Pride, where she also served as an assistant coach for one season. “Football is my life, I simply can't imagine doing anything else.”