Brazil international Marta knows all about overcoming obstacles. With her homeland still failing to offer the kind of support the women’s game enjoys elsewhere, the gifted attacker battled her way to the top via early dabblings with handball and boy’s football to be crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in five consecutive years between 2006 and 2010.
The wearer of A Seleção’s mythical No10 shirt, the Tyreso star is also an ambassador for the forthcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, about which she spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
On the agenda, among other issues, were her expectations for the competition, Brazil’s chances of success and a confident prediction:
“If the team play like they did at the Confederations Cup and the fans get behind them, Brazil will be very difficult to beat.”
It’s often said that when you were young and played handball with your friends, you’d end up in goal. Is that true?
Yes, that’s right. I’d play with the other girls and end up going in goal. Back then, when I was starting to get into football, the girls my age preferred handball it wasn’t that easy to get a game of football.
Nobody else wanted to go in goal, they were scared of leaping about. But I wasn’t scared at all because I was already used to playing football with boys.
That’s why I played in that position but we did have a deal: once handball training was finished, we’d all play a bit of football.
How good of a goalkeeper were you?
I wasn’t a typical handball keeper, I played pretty much like a football goalkeeper.
I had a knack for it already because of going to football training with boys, so I was pretty good back then.
Is the fact you are such a prolific goalscorer nowadays a form of payback for those early days?
That’s true, I don’t treat goalkeepers very well now! (laughs) I’m always trying to get the better of them and score as many goals as I possibly can.
Seriously though, that’s a sign of everything I’ve dreamed of achieving since I was a little girl.
So you have an idea of how things have changed, those girls in my hometown who all preferred playing handball now prefer football.
The Brazil’s women’s national squad recently went to meet President Dilma Rousseff. How did it go?
It was a very productive meeting. I’d already had the privilege of meeting her before, but going to see her with all the other girls was a way of joining forces in a bid to really change the future prospects of the women’s game in our country.
It’d be really great if in the future a lot more of these girls could make a living from football, without having to have other jobs like they do now. Dilma gave us her full support and I hope that has a positive impact.
You won your first FIFA World Player award back in 2006. Given how women’s football has grown since then, would you say there is more competition for the award nowadays?
No doubt about it! The sport is growing and as it does more and more outstanding players are emerging.
The competition [for the Women’s World Player award] is getting fiercer all the time, but that adds lustre to the sport and stimulates the growth of women’s football.
I’m sure that in the future more and more different players will win it.
How have you changed since 2006?
Well, I’m a little bit older… (laughs) You pick up certain things over time, such as the experience of playing in European competitions.
When I join up with the Brazil squad now I find it easier when it comes to helping out my colleagues, some of whom are going through situations I had to come through when I was starting out.
It’s good to get involved and do my bit to help get our football flowing naturally.
Let’s talk about this year’s FIFA World Cup. Are you planning to catch any action first-hand?
Very much so. Though it’ll really depend on the schedule and fixture list in the Swedish women’s game, I think I’ll be able to get over to Brazil and catch a few matches.
I’d love to see the Opening Match and, of course, the Final. They’re top of my wish list.
The Brazilian people can’t wait. They want the World Cup to start soon and, who knows, to end the same way as the Confederations Cup did.
If you could choose, what Final line-up would you pick? Brazil versus Uruguay: a repeat of the final match of the 1950 edition?
As long as Brazil are involved, I don’t care who we’re playing. (laughs)
What’s the level of expectation seem like to you back home?
Hopes are really high and expectations are very positive. The Brazilian people can’t wait.
They want the World Cup to start soon and, who knows, to end the same way as the Confederations Cup did.
You’ve already played in the Estadio Mane Garrincha in Brasilia. What can you tell us about it?
That’s the stadium I know best [of all the World Cup stadia] because we played a tournament there.
The stadium is perfect and the pitch is the same standard as those you’d find in Europe. It was a real thrill to play in a stadium that will be used at the World Cup.
You attended the Final Draw in December. Do you think you were a lucky charm for A Seleção?
Mmm, I think there were other teams that had a touch more luck than us. Brazil ended up in well-balanced group.
It’s not that easy but I wouldn’t say it’s extremely tough either. Anyway, I think that we’ll make it through.
Are you confident of Brazil’s chances?
Yes. The team’s really grown in stature, even during the Confederations Cup. I hope we see a repeat of what happened then: A Seleção playing well and the fans roaring them on.
I’m sure that if both those factors come to pass, Brazil will be very hard to beat.
In your opinion, who are Brazil’s main rivals for the Trophy?
There are several. It’s a World Cup, so nobody will be there just for the ride. Everyone’s going to be doing their best and there’ll even be some teams aiming to spring a surprise.
We know that there are some major rivalries in the mix, such as the one with Argentina for example.
Then there’s Spain, who lost in the final of the Confederations Cup and won’t want to go through that again. And you also have the likes of England, the Netherlands, Italy they’re all very good teams.
Should Brazil be crowned world champions on 13 July, would you feel a touch jealous seeing the players celebrate victory in the Maracana?
Not at all! I’d be really proud of them. All of us who play this sport dream of moments like that, of being in those kinds of situations.
Watching a World Cup in Brazil and experiencing a feeling like that, even from the stands, would really motivate us all to go out and try and achieve the same goal.