“This is what I ask of the girls,” Marta continued, as she turned to address a TV camera directly and reference a pair of veteran teammates. “There’s not going to be a Formiga forever. There’s not going to be a Marta forever. There’s not going to be a Cristiane. The women’s game depends on you to survive. So think about that. Value it more.
“Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end.”
A six-time FIFA player of the year, Marta (full name: Marta Vieira da Silva) is regarded as arguably the greatest female soccer player ever. She has not been able to lead Brazil to a World Cup title but has more than made her mark on the tournament, having become its all-time leading scorer, among men or women, with a goal Tuesday against Italy, her 17th over five World Cups.
Marta came into this installment, held in France, with a muscle strain, and she was eased into action, sitting out Brazil’s opening win over Jamaica before playing 45 minutes against Australia and then 84 minutes against Italy, as her side advanced out of the group stage.
In a showdown in which Brazil gave the favored host nation all it could handle, Marta gave maximum effort over the full 120 minutes. She had been on the pitch for all 90 minutes of each of the six matches in which she competed this spring for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, and when asked why she wasn’t conserving more energy ahead of the World Cup, Marta said it was the only way she know how to play.
“Some people come to me and say, ‘Why are you going so hard on the 50-50 balls? You’re almost going to the World Cup,’ ” she told Pro Soccer USA this month. “I can’t do anything 50 percent. I’m either not, or all-in. I need to be all-in. Everything I do, it’s 100 percent. It’s giving my all.”
“Honestly, when I’m not excited or emotional or looking forward to playing in a specific tournament or any game in my life is when I need to stop,” Marta added. “It’s just what I do for life, so if I’m not passionate or looking forward to it or anxious about it, it’s because something is wrong.”
With her post-match exhortation Sunday, Marta displayed the passion to inspire a nation. She certainly appeared to get more than a few TV viewers fired up, to judge from a number of comments online.
“That true passion, she wants to bring it down to the younger players below her, and make sure they understand what it takes to be at the level that she’s at,” Fox Sports analyst and former USWNT captain Christie Pearce said of Marta.
Of the “Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end” line, former USMNT player Cobi Jones said on Fox Sports: “I think that statement says it all, because that’s going to affect millions of kids, girls and boys. I’ve sent it to my kids already, so that they can see it.”
To some, it sounded a lot like a farewell speech, but Marta has indicated that she has no immediate plans to exit the stage.
She told Pro Soccer USA, “I can’t keep thinking of the future and think, ‘Oh, that’s when I’m going to retire,’ ” and she joked that she’s still trying to discover the secret of the 41-year-old Formiga’s longevity. If Brazil wins the bidding to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, she would have all the more motivation to keep playing.
However, another veteran Brazil player, goalkeeper Barbara, said last month that the competitive “cycle” for herself, Marta and other long-tenured teammates would end after the 2020 Olympics.
“Marta said she would give it all to Brazil while she has the strength,” Barbara said, “and asked our help to be the Marta we know.”
The 2018 FIFA women’s player of the year, Marta showed in France that she has plenty of strength left, not to mention passion for the game.