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I want to win the World Football Cup!

Although only 21 years old, Marta Vieira da Silva is the world’s top female footballer. The ball juggler from Brazil talks about the forthcoming World Cup in the People’s Republic of China, her dreams and aspirations, Ronaldinho and the future of women’s football.

Question: So what are you expecting of this year’s Women’s World Cup?
Marta: I want to win the World Cup. I am convinced that China will give Brazil their first break to become women’s world champions because we have a very good team and brilliant players such as midfielder Pretinha and the two strikers, Katia and Formiga.

Question: What else are you expecting from this World Cup?
Marta: I’m expecting the competition to have many exciting and attractive matches. Women’s football has taken huge strides over the past few years and the teams in China will prove that. I am very excited about this World Cup – it will be a fantastic tournament.

Question: Which teams do you rate as the best?
Marta: the USA and China. These two big countries are still a force to be reckoned with in women’s football and the defending champions, Germany, are also very strong. But I’m not afraid of any of them because no single team stands out in women’s football any more. The gap has closed at the top and there are no longer any vast differences between the top teams.

Question: How popular is women’s football in Brazil?
Marta: Last December, I sat next to Kristine Lilly from the USA and Renate Lingor from Germany at the FIFA World Player Gala in the Opera House in Zurich and was intrigued to hear how well they take care of young women players and women’s football in those countries. It made me sad and angry that women’s football is still treated like a Cinderella figure in Brazil. The problem in Brazil is not that there aren’t any girls playing football but that they receive no support whatsoever to encourage them to become good players like me.

Question: Last year, you ere named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Perhaps this honour will kickstart women’s football in Brazil.
Marta: I don’t know if the award can help me become a role model for these girls and inspire them in any way but I certainly hope so. That would really make me happy.

Question: What does it mean to you be the world’s top women’s footballer?
Marta: When I heard I had won in Zurich last December, I was moved to tears because I thought of my family, and especially my mother, who has always wholeheartedly supported me. Besides, I had been nominated for the third successive time and suddenly I had reached the top. In 2004, I had won bronze and, in 2005, silver – then last December gold. To be voted the best female footballer by national coaches and captains from all around the world is an incredible and amazing feeling. The award makes me happy, proud and thankful – but far from smug. Now I want to win a whole range of titles and trophies – after all, I am only 21.

Question: How did you first get involved in football?
Marta: Like thousands of other young Brazilian girls, and boys even more so, I started playing football on the street back home in Dois Riachos in north-eastern Brazil when I was seven years old. I used to play football with boys. I learned all of my tricks from them. Sometimes I would kick the ball about with my cousins and my two elder brothers, Jose and Valdir. But my sister, Angela, is not the least bit interested. We didn’t have our own football. If my mother had bought us one, we wouldn’t have any money left for food (her father – a barber – abandoned the family when Marta was a toddler). I began training regularly and playing competitively when I was 12 or 13. I played in a school team made up of boys. When I was 14, a friend asked me if I would like to go to Rio de Janeiro for a trial with Fluminense or Vasco da Gama. I jumped at the offer because there’s no women’s national league in Brazil. Only the big clubs like Fluminense or Vasco have women’s teams.

Question: And you managed to win over the experts in Rio de Janeiro…
Marta: It took me three days to cover 1,500 km by bus. I was very thin then but also very fast. The coaches at Vasco were quite taken aback and what I could do with the ball. Vasco signed me and paid my expenses. I started living with family friends in Rio. Three years later, I debuted in the Women’s World Cup at the age of 17! And when I turned 18, I joined Umea in Sweden as a professional.

Question: Did you ever have an idol?
Marta: No, not really but I love the way the Brazilian men play. I was so proud and happy to be able to speak to Ronaldinho at the FIFA World Player Gala last year. It’s wonderful to watch him play – he bubbles over with enthusiasm and passion. It’s amazing what Ronaldinho for football and for millions of people. I also admire Rivaldo and Ronaldo.

Question: You have been playing for Umea for the past three years. What is life like for a Brazilian woman in Sweden?
Marta: It’s very good. Of course, it wasn’t easy at first. Sweden and Brazil are two very different countries with different languages, cultures and weather. I left a place with temperatures that often reach 35º and went to live somewhere where the temperature can drop to minus 22º! But I feel really at home at Umea. I speak Swedish and the people are very nice. What’s more, I can play top-level football. Unfortunately, we had a huge disappointment this year when the English club, Arsenal, narrowly beat us in the UEFA Cup final.

Question: What do you like doing other than plying football?
Marta: Nothing spectacular. I am a humble and easy-going person and like spending time with my family. I go to the cinema sometimes and I like listening to music.

Question: How do you see the future of women’s football?
Marta: It has a very promising future. Women’s football has made enormous progress in recent years. More and more girls and women are taking up football and personally I can’t see an end to this boom. It’s just growing and growing. Women’s football is definitely on the right track and I’m very happy about that.

Question: What does the future hold for you?
Marta: I don’t think about it too much. I want to develop as a player and as a person. I’m hoping to play top-level football for at least another eight or nine years.