Farewell Formiga: Brazilian football legend takes final bow

The 43-year-old midfielder hangs up her international boots after competing in seven World Cups and seven Olympic Games.

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Legendary women’s football star Miraildes Maciel Mota, commonly known as 'Formiga', donned Brazil's famous yellow jersey for the final time in yesterday’s (November 25) friendly against India in Manaus.

The 43-year-old, who announced her retirement from international duties earlier this month, was brought on from the bench for the last 15 minutes of action and looked as commanding as ever in the midfield as her team stormed to victory 6-1.

Though denied a parting goal thanks to a super save from Indian keeper Aditi Chauhan, the emphatic final scoreline provided a fitting send-off for a player whose career-in-numbers is as equally as impressive.

Born in Salvador in 1978, just three years before her country lifted its ban on women’s football, Formiga began playing football at the age of 12.

Her rise up the sport's ranks was meteoric. At 17 she was awarded with her first international cap at the 1995 Women’s World Cup and in little over a year, she was an established first team player, regularly starting for Brazil at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Formiga: Bringing brilliance to Brazil

The defensive midfielder went on to clock some eye-watering figures.

Her 234 caps, 37 goals, seven World Cup and seven Olympic appearances have seen her walk away with two Olympic silver medals (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008), the runner-up title at the 2007 World Cup, third place at the 1999 World Cup, three Pan American Games wins and six Copa America Femenino titles.

The number eight has been such a mainstay in her sport that there hasn't been an Olympic women’s football tournament without her. At Tokyo 2020, she became the first athlete to compete at seven Olympics in any team sport, and the oldest woman to play at the Women’s Olympic Football tournament, surpassing her team-mate Meg.

But it's not just in the international arena Formiga has shone. The Brazilian, who currently plies her trade at her first club Sao Paulo, has also played for teams in Sweden, the US and France, where, notably, she helped Paris Saint-Germain lift their first league title just last season.

Saying goodbye to Brazil's most-capped player

There has been a considerable outpouring of support for Formiga’s second retirement (her first attempt was in 2016 but she was coaxed out of it because she was so irreplaceable).

Last night, the Brazil's women’s soccer team shared on their social media account a personal tribute from two-time World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe:

“Congratulations on an absolutely insane career. I don’t think anyone could ever replicate what you’ve done on the field,” Rapinoe said addressing Formiga directly. “It seems impossible that you wouldn’t be able to play anymore.”

Rapinoe joins a chorus of international players that also includes recent USWNT retiree Carli Lloyd and two-time Olympic gold medallist Mia Hamm.

Though Formiga retires without a World Cup or Olympic gold medal on her resume, the she will forever be remembered for her enduring sporting commitment to her country, and of course, for her silky footwork on the ball.

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