Difficult future for Brazil after defeat
© AFP

Brazil's women footballers return home to an uncertain future after another agonising failure in a major tournament. Beaten 1-0 by the United States in Thursday's gold medal match, their third successive loss in a final following the 2004 Games and last year's FIFA Women's World Cup, Brazil fear they may have missed a chance to pull the sport back home out of the doldrums.

Coach Jorge Barcellos urged Brazil's major clubs to give women's football a chance. "The first thing we need is for Brazilian clubs to develop a women's football department and youth divisions," he said. "If you don't have youth divisions, you won't have anything for the future."

Although women's football is shown live in Brazil during the Olympic Games and FIFA Women's World Cup and has grown enormously as a participants' sport, the country does not have a regular professional championship. Regional leagues are held but, like the clubs, they only function sporadically and often fold after a few years.

Goalkeeper Barbara, one of 10 home-based players in the Brazil squad, said before the final she would quit her club when she got home because she had not been paid for six months. "I've been playing for free since December," she told reporters before Thursday's final.

FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, who plays in Sweden, said: "The big clubs in Brazil need to invest more in women's football to give it a lift. We need more championships because there are lots of players who are hidden away."

Pele, whose former club Santos are one of the few of the big clubs to have a women's team, was sympathetic. "Women's football has no support whatsoever," he told reporters in Beijing. "It's always a struggle to get the team ready. I was in the United States recently and I saw that the support there is much greater. Santos are investing, but we need more."