‘Do other Martas exist?’ | In ‘machista’ Brazilian culture, one cannot be sure

Women and girls have stayed away from stadia to “protect their reputations” and have avoided beach soccer and park games because of the coarse language and rowdy crowds. … As it is now, men and women have different interests. The men I talked with insisted that their wives have the church and they have soccer. In traditional parts of Brazil, church is the one place women are trusted to go unescorted. It is a safe world for women, giving them freedom of movement to organize charities, fund-raisers, and social events. Unlike men’s interest in soccer, however, women’s churchgoing keeps them close to home. The church does not expand their horizon beyond family and neighborhood. While they share worldwide symbols of Catholicism, women’s localized activities do little to integrate them into metropolitan or national life. (154)

At an informal women’s world championship in Brazil in 1985, the country had no women’s national team. The Radar club represented the country instead. In 1988, at another world women’s championship, the national selection finished third. From its ninth-place finish in the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in 1991, Brazil has shown continued improvement, although not as much as might have been expected.

Former coach Rene Simoes tells Vickery that national support from the women’s team is “almost non-existent.” Following a silver-medal performance in Athens in 2004, the team sat idle for two years. Simoes says that “we can only hope for a miracle” in China this month. Pledges for a national women’s league have yet to be realized with 2008, according to Graciano, set as the next potential target.

“There are lots of girls, lots of Martas all over Brazil wanting to play football,” says Marta, who competes for Umeå IK in the Damallsvenskan, the top Swedish women’s division. “I can’t play in my own country.” “The boys want the field to be only for them,” echoes Vanessa da Silva Oliveira, 14, a child laborer offered to chance to play soccer through a UNICEF-backed program in Olinda, Pernambuco (“Football Helps Girls in Brazil Put Exploitation behind Them”).

The paradox is that Brazil, having been tarred with Third World status for much of its recent history, stands as a leading cultural force in social change, liberation theology, education and especially music—in many of the transformative arts. Musician Caetano Veloso—like Marta and “Tropicalia” movement co-founder Gilberto Gil, from the country’s northeast—says in a 2003 documentary that national progress has not finished:

I’d say that some optimism is possible in Brazil. And this very little thing is an enormous reality. Because if some little optimism is possible about this monster, it’s really something. Because if you dream of something really good coming from Brazil, some affirmation of what we are, it could be enormous. We are southern hemisphere, non-white, poor, speaking Portuguese—it’s too much. It’s too many disadvantages not to be considered a blessing when you have a little optimism. If you have the slightest optimism about Brazil, all that looks like a blessing, a unique opportunity to make a big gesture, a historical gesture.

Marta with biographer Graciano in her home state of Alagoas, an “intense stay” that surpassed Graciano’s “professional and human expectations.”

Interview with Diego Graciano

GG: Has your biography of Martia Vieira da Silva been published and, if so, what are the details: publisher, date and so on?

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