Marta Vieira da Silva is a Brazilian-born soccer player named FIFA World Player of the Year five consecutive times. Coming from a humble background, she had a difficult childhood. Her mom was single-handedly raising Marta and her five siblings in their hometown of Dois Riachos. Selling fruits at a local market to help her family, Marta often had to miss school. At the time when many believed that women weren’t supposed to play soccer, she suffered from discrimination for being the only girl participating in junior championships in her region. In 2000, at the age of 14, she heard that the Vasco da Gama soccer club was looking for female players in Rio de Janeiro, and with her mother’s support, she decided to try her luck there.
Five months later, Marta was already playing for the Brazil women’s national soccer team, and in 2004, at the age of 17, she participated in her first FIFA Women’s World Cup, playing for the U-20 team. It didn’t take long before Marta received an offer to join the Sweden’s Umeå IK, where she played from 2004 to 2009, having brought her team four Swedish championship titles. That was also the period when she was recognized as the best player in the world.
With the Brazil women’s national soccer team, Marta won gold medals at the Pan American Games in 2003 and 2007. She was also a silver medalist at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. At the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, Marta helped her team reach its first-ever final in the competition, and the goal she scored during the semi-final match against the USA, was considered by many to be the most beautiful goal in the history of the tournament. With Brazil securing second place, Marta was named the best player in that year’s championship, receiving the Golden Ball award as well as being recognized as the top scorer with her 7 goals.
Since then, she has played for several teams in the United States, Brazil, and Sweden, her performances covered by Brazilian and international media numerous times. In 2015, she became the scoring leader in the history of the Women’s World Cup, having scored 15 goals. That same year, she was also named the top scorer of the Brazilian national team with her 117 goals, having beaten Pelé himself and the 95 goals he scored while representing his country.
Holder of several titles and honors, in 2007 Marta became the first woman to leave her footprints on the Maracanã Walk of Fame. In 2008, with the opening of the Soccer Museum, she was included in its World Cup and Números e Curiosidade (Numbers and Curiosities) rooms. And in 2015, in the frame of the Visibility for Women’s Soccer project, Marta and her teammate Formiga were celebrated in the Anjos Barrocos (Baroque Angels) room, which until then had been featuring exclusively male players.
Aware of the situation with women’s soccer in Brazil, she speaks openly about the difficulties of being a professional player in her country, highlighting the lack of structure and investment in female athletes. Marta herself has been struggling for years, trying to get support and funding from the Brazilian government in order to develop women’s football; and she points out that all the success she has achieved both individually and as a part of the national team, has not been capitalized the way it should have been. For her activism, in 2010 the United Nations appointed Marta a Goodwill Ambassador for the organization to advocate for women’s soccer players around the world. Her determination and courage made her an example and inspiration for girls and women in Brazil and around the world, who dream of becoming professional players.