“Formiga’s from another planet,” said Brazil coach Vadao, his eyed fixed dotingly on the veteran midfielder. “The more you tell her to take a break, the more she ignores you and presses on. I don’t know where she gets the energy from. She is a real baiana brava.”
The object of his admiration breaks into a laugh: “I asked my mother and she didn’t tell me which planet I came from. I’d like to know, though.”
The records say that the indefatigable Miraildes Maciel Mota – to give Formiga her real name – was born on Planet Earth 37 years, three months and six days ago, on 3 March 1978, in the northeastern city of Salvador de Bahia.
She underlined her otherworldly status, however, by finding the back of the net in Brazil’s Group E opener against Korea Republic at Canada 2015, a strike that has given her the distinction of being the oldest goalscorer in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
“I’m delighted to have scored for the national team,” she told FIFA.com. “I don’t get many goals and this was a historic one too. Who’d have thought I’d get this far and that I’d be here helping the team out after so many obstacles along the way? All the same, I think my commitment and workrate are more important to the team than the goal.”
That work rate earned her the nickname of Formiga (Portuguese for “ant”), given to her by a fan over 25 years ago now. A tireless worker, she is one of those players who covers every blade of grass, getting the ball forward at every opportunity, closing down her opponents, taking set pieces and, when the occasion demands, pushing up in attack.
*Chasing a dream *
After 20 years of dedicated service to Brazil, that nickname has since become her playing name. “I like it. It suits me,” says Formiga, who has also been wearing the No20 jersey since December 2014, in recognition of her two decades in international football.
So what is the secret to her longevity in the game? “Dedication, training and looking after myself on a daily basis,” she replied. “Athletes have to take care of themselves, especially if they have a dream they want to fulfil. You have to focus on that and ignore all the distractions and obstacles along the way.”
Formiga has been around so long she is unable to remember her first game for her country. “I do remember my first team training camp in Brazil, before the World Cup in Sweden,” she said with a chuckle.
The record books state that her Brazil debut came on 11 April 1995. Then came appearances at Sweden 1995, USA 1999 and 2003, China 2007 and Germany 2011, to name but a few of the competitions she has graced.
The biggest prize in the women’s game continues to elude her, however. The closest she and her compatriots came to getting their hands on it was in China eight years ago, when they finished runners-up.
Looking firmly to the future, she said: “I think the team is coming on well. We’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’ve got every faith in the project. We really believe we can do it this time. It’s my last World Cup and my dream is to take the Trophy back to Brazil at long last.”
Repeating the advice she gives to the team’s new faces, she added: “When you have a dream, you have to put everything you have into making it happen.”
The ageless Formiga’s dream could well be about to come true, at the sixth time of asking.