Women's Football

First step to a brighter future

On the back of a series of swashbuckling displays, Brazil's finest came away from the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 as valiant runners-up with the warm applause of the Chinese fans ringing in their ears.

And in spite of the deep disappointment of falling at the final hurdle, the Auriverde ranks refused to be swayed from their mission to further the sport back home. "Brazil, we need support" read a small but significant banner held by the players while they posed for photographs, a statement designed to catch the eye of the Brazilian Football Association (CBF).

The appeals of Marta and Co. did not go unheeded, and the CBF wasted little time in announcing their firm intention to organise a women's football competition. The resulting event, the I Copa do Brasil de Futebol Feminino (First Brazilian Women's Football Cup), took place between 30 November and 8 December 2007, with 32 teams from across Brazil's federal states taking part.

Going head to head in the final of the historic tournament were Saad Esporte Clube from Mato Grosso do Sul and Botucatu Futebol Clube, the pair clashing on 8 December in the Estadio Mane Garrincha in the capital Brasilia. An impressive nine members of the Canarinha squad from China 2007 took part that day and made a full contribution to a fiercely contested tie. Botucatu star Daniela fired her team into the lead direct from a corner, though Saad's prolific Daniela Alves went on to level matters from the penalty spot. With neither side able to add to their tally, the title would be decided via a penalty shootout, Saad holding their nerve to take the Copa 5-4.

"Just to have won a cup organised by the CBF is a great achievement for us. I hope there's one on the agenda for next year and that the competition is even bigger," said Alves, whose equaliser in the final was her 14 th of the competition and who took the best player and top scorer awards to go with her winners' medal.

The match for third place pitted Sao Francisco against Benfica, the game finishing in a 2-2 draw after normal time. Once again penalties were required to separate the two sides, Sao Francisco coming through 5-4 to take the third and final place on the podium.

"Brazil has never had such a well-organised women's tournament before," enthused Romeo de Castro, President of Saad.

"I think that it was a good starting point for Brazilian women's football, which was in need of that kind of boost. We didn't have any support or help. This Copa was a great opportunity and I hope that this initiative helps ensure that there's a league in place next year for all the girls in Brazil," Seleção striker Cristiane told FIFA.com recently in Zurich, where she collected third place in the FIFA Women's World Player 2007 awards.

The Canarinha star, who boasts a gold medal from the 2007 Pan-American Games to go with runners-up medals from China 2007 and the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004, was so keen to get involved in the brand-new Copa, she left the German league to join San Jose back in Brazil.

And the finest player in the women's game, who forms a deadly double act with Cristiane in the Brazil national team, was also quick to endorse the new competition. "This means that there are a lot of girls who want to play football in Brazil and we're all going to keep fighting to create more space and more opportunities for them," said Marta, the two-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.

"The second edition of the Brazilian Women's Football Cup is scheduled to take place in August 2008, and will follow similar lines to this year's tournament. However, we will require the clubs involved to meet the necessary technical requirements and to have competed in their respective state championships," Antonio Alvares Miranda, the man responsible for overseeing the Brazilian Women's Football Cup, told FIFA.com. "The aim is to try and get close to 5,000 players involved in women's football in this country. As we speak the CBF is busy negotiating a sponsorship programme."

For the Brazilian players, the biggest hope is that these promises are indeed met, even once the media interest generated by the Seleção's success during 2007 has abated. For Cristiane, the women's game in Brazil faces another real threat: "We're all really excited that the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil, but we hope that it doesn't soak up all the available investment and take funds away from women's football."

Yet if their performances on the international stage are anything to go by, and the players on show during the I Copa do Brasil continue to enjoy a showcase for their considerable talents, the future for women's football in Brazil could be very bright indeed.

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