Northern latitudes helped make Marta a player of Sol importance

Johanna Frisk and Marta

As of Jan 7, the online Umeå IK fan forum had accepted the inevitable. “Thanks for everything! Best wishes in the future!” LA-bound teammates Marta, right, and Johanna Frisk are told. For the fourth straight season Umeå was crowned Swedish champion. (Photo © 2008 Umeå IK)

Frustrated by repeated cancellation of training and home matches, Umeå IK directors in 2003 ordered a new artificial surface and full-field underground heating system at the 10,000-capacity Gammliavallen stadium. They did not yet know how much the world’s greatest woman footballer, from the Sertão scrubland of Brazil’s northeast, would benefit starting the following season from a dry, dependable, fast surface that would facilitate her feints and double dragbacks at pace.

From the women’s soccer backwater of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where 17-year-old Marta Vieira da Silva had been playing for the club Santa Cruz, she would switch hemispheres to Umeå of the Swedish Norrland, where snowpacks, sometimes as deep as 80cm (31”), are in evidence five months per year. Where, in deepest winter, daylight lasts less than five hours. Where, when there is no football at the Gammliavallen, a cross-country ski race might finish.

The loss to the Women’s United Soccer Association, which announced its collapse shortly before the Women’s World Cup in Sept 03, was the gain of the Swedish Damallsvenskan. On 4 Feb 04, two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, Marta and friend Marina arrived at latitude 63° 50′ N.

“In Umeå,” writes Marta biographer Diego Graciano (see 15 Sept 08),

the summers are replete with light. But in winters, the rigors are stark, nothing but snow and night. Marta would not forget her tears on touching the snowy ground. “When I was descending on the airplane I was frightened by the amount of ice, and I asked Marina: ‘Can it be that they play football in this country?’ ”

Mats Bråstedt Bråstedt

“It’s dark,” Expressen reporter Mats Bråstedt, based in Stockholm, an hourlong plane journey to the south, says simply in our Jan 8 podcast (see below).

On Jan 6, after close to a five-year association, Umeå IK and Marta parted ways, suddenly, with cold legalisms contained in a 40-page contract from Los Angeles Sol of Women’s Professional Soccer and with her old club’s press release: “Discussion between the Umeå IK management and Marta da Silva’s agent Fabiano Farah over whether Marta will or will not be part of Umeå IK in the upcoming season for our part is complete.”

Page 1 of 5 | Next page