The Olympic Review continues its countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games in London by speaking to stars. Voted FIFA’s Woman Player of the Year for the last five years, the 25-year-old Brazilian Marta Vieira da Silva is determined to add Olympic gold to her honours, having finished runner-up to the USA in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008.
Are you looking forward to London 2012? Of course. It’s the Olympic Games. But it’s still a long way off. We’ve just had the Women’s World Cup in Germany so we have to come down from that and build ourselves up again. Other people work out how we must prepare, for example the time we get off from our clubs, when we should start to focus on going to London, and so on.
Who will be your main rivals? Same as ever: United States and Sweden; Japan will be confident after winning the World Cup, and the French and the British teams have been improving. The British team will have their own support. At least Germany will not be there. I don’t say that makes it easier – maybe just a little less difficult for whoever is going to win. Of course we hope it will be us this time, at last.
How old were you when you started playing football? I was seven or eight. I played with the boys out on the street without shoes. I was the only girl and every time I played I had to try something so that I could be better. When I was 14, I heard about trials for girl players in Rio de Janeiro and I never looked back.
You moved to Sweden to play professionally. How difficult was that? It was a club called Umea. That was the first time I saw snow. I thought I would never cope. But I did, and I stayed for five years.
You moved to the United States when the new professional women’s league was launched. How was that? The standard was going to improve so it was the right move, even though you never know if a team is going to be there from one year to the next.
Who are your favourite players? Probably at first it was Rivaldo, then Ronaldinho. People ask if I know them and Ronaldo, but I don’t. They play in their world, I play in mine. A lot of people say my style reminds them of Ronaldinho. I watch all the top players and try to take something of the best from each of them.
Are the best women players good enough to play in the men’s game? I play football in training all the time with my male friends, who are also professionals. But playing together in competition? I just don’t see it. We have the ability, we have the technique, we have the tactical understanding, but there are physical limitations. You can’t get away from that.
Should the women’s game get more media coverage? Of course, but this is how it is. At least we know the level of the women’s game is getting better all the time. More people who don’t know about us get to see that whenever there is a World Cup or an Olympic Games final on television. Other than that we do not compete in terms of TV coverage, and that is the key.
How do you see your role as one of the top female players in the world?My intention is to get more involved in social projects so I can give people a message of hope. The best thing I can do is talk to people because if I show them what I have achieved then there is the possibility of a better world for all of them too.
How did you feel after being voted FIFA’s Woman Player of the Year for the fifth time in a row? It meant so much to be up on stage in Zurich because we are in a different league to the men. We work just as hard but we never know what next year will bring.