Second to None: Brazilian Star Marta

In Canada we have Christine Sinclair and in Brazil they have Marta. Marta is one of the most prolific soccer players ever to play the game. Many years ago I saw her play live in Rochester, New York in what was the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She was a beast – all muscle, strength, speed, agility and finesse. She has been named FIFA’s world player of the year 5 times, an incredible honour that only one other player in soccer has earned: Lionel Messi. Given that the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted in Brazil, this will be a prime, and rare opportunity for Marta and the Brazilian WNT to showcase their talent on home soil.

A few months ago when Brazil was in town slated to play Canada in 2-game exhibition series, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk did a wonderful profile on Marta: “Brazilian star Marta not settling for second: The men’s game will always be first in her country, but the star of the women’s soccer team is trying to close the gap”. In the article Feschuk outlines how women’s soccer in Brazil does not have the same foundations as in other countries such as the US, which makes the accomplishments of Brazil’s WNT remarkable, and the success of Marta bittersweet.

For me, Brazil’s WNT is one of my favourites to watch simply because of their flair, creativity, skill on the ball and attacking style. It was a pleasure to watch them in June and I look forward to seeing them this month at the Olympics. I hope the Rio Olympics changes people’s perception of women’s soccer in Brazil, but I know that institutional and social changes happen very slow. Below, pictures from Canada vs Brazil Exhibition Match at BMO Field June 4, 2016.

All pictures © Cristina Murano

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Final Thoughts: Men’s World Cup

Was away on vacation last week and missed the Third Place match between Brazil and Netherlands. Heard it was another self-destruct by Brazil and that Netherlands dominated. Over the last decade I’ve seen Brazilian teams (women’s and men’s) be their own worst enemy time and again. Why this happens, don’t know, perhaps it’s too much pressure or they can’t seem to play as a cohesive unit when it matters most.

The Final between Argentina and Germany was anti-climatic. Commentators and fans may disagree, but I was not on the edge of my seat during the first 90 minutes. Was slightly on edge during the extra 30 minutes and was saddened for Messi every time Argentina could not finish on the many scoring opportunities they were given. Quite frankly, no one player should be burdened by that much pressure. And you could see on his face the stress and disappointment.

The most impressive thing about this tournament was how close the competition was. There were games that went back and forth for a full 90 minutes; where counter-attack was skillful and strategic; fouls seemed to be a bit down, which reflected a smarter brand of soccer; and there were huge upsets (Spain, Argentina, Italy, Brazil) and great surprises (Costa Rica, Colombia, USA).

In the end though, I still think women’s soccer at the professional level, whether that be World Cup or otherwise, is far more interesting and impressive, with way less on-field drama. I just wish that it would be viewed that way by others.

As CBC was signing off last night after the final game, the commentator said that we would have to wait another four years for the magic and excitement. Ummmmmmm, no we don’t, women’s U20 World Cup: August 2014 and women’s World Cup: Summer 2015. The magic and excitement will visit us in less than 12 months, two times over. And they say we don’t need feminism anymore…

And So It Begins: Men’s World Cup 2014

Here we go soccer fans, the first FIFA tournament in a series (ie. Men’s World Cup 2014, Women’s U20 World Cup 2014, and Women’s World Cup 2015).

As always, FIFA tournaments invoke intense emotions for those of us committed to the sport and to our team(s). Toronto, being one of the most diverse cities in the world, will be a hub of activity during the tournament.

For the full schedule of the games click the link: fifa.com/worldcup/matches
Note, there are a few exciting matches to look forward to in the Group Stage:

England vs Italy : Saturday, June 14 at 6PM
Germany vs Portugal : Monday, June 16 at 12PM
Spain vs Chile : Wednesday, June 18 at 3PM

CBC Sports will be broadcasting the tournament, which will include live streaming online for those who can’t get to a television during the broadcast hours.