Marta and the Bloody Pitch

Today marks one year since THAT video clip of Marta, filmed after Brazil lost to France in the last of 16 at the World Cup in France, where she pulled off a fierce impromptu speech that since has been doing the rounds on the internet and become immortalised. With teary eyes, she’s seen calling on her team mates – both in her team and in the global game – to be “wanting more, training harder, taking better care of yourself.” To be willing to leave blood on the pitch, which she illustrated with her red lipstick. To fight for more.

This extends onto everyone who are involved in, and passionate about the women’s game, at any level, anywhere. The interests of our capitalist, patriarchal society do not align very well with the growth of women’s football, it’s not enough to sit around and wait for things to change, to believe that the systems that have been happy to suppress women’s football (and women’s access to football) for as long as football’s been around, will all of a sudden go out of their way to enable the necessary measures to be put in place for the expansion of the women’s game. We have seen progress in recent years and there has been improvements within the global women’s game (to varying degrees), which is fantastic – but there’s still such a long way to go, there’s no time to rest on our laurels, and we need to look at how far reaching these changes actually are. As long as there’s still discrimination of any kind within the game – like sexism, racism and homophobia, we’re not done.

Marta, one of the best football players in the world, has been around in the women’s game for a long time – she’s seen it change a lot, and been part of that change. At 11, she used to sell fruit and clothes at the market once a week to help her family, instead of going to school, and she did not get to see her mother much who, as a single mum of four children, had to work around the clock to make ends meet. She has said that it was seeing her mother struggle so much that inspired her to get to where she is now. At 14 she left Dois Riachos to pursue her footballing career with Vasco da Gama, a Rio-based club, but it was not easy by any means, as she had to endure abuse every day, being a woman playing football (via BBC Sport). She had so much working against her, yet here she is today, one of the most accoladed female footballers of all time, and when you see her speaking about football you get a glimpse of how that’s possible, as her raw passion for the game shines through every syllable, every tear.

Marta looked into the camera and called on US. You and me. Players and lovers of the game. It is not the time to give away the power here, we can not concede the small but all important role we all play in this game, to people who have never, and will never, be part of this community. What we can do is work to get more women involved in the decision making in the women’s game. As women and footballers and fans, we can decide to defy that internalised voice (programmed by our patriarchal society) that says “you do not belong here” and instead use our actual voice to say “I do belong here”, and then act accordingly.

“Cry in the beginning so you can smile at the end.”

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