Farewell Marta: An ode to the World Cup legend who made us fall in love with football

Marta celebrates scoring a goal for Brazil at the 2016 Olympics
Marta of Brazil celebrates after scoring Brazil's fourth goal during the Women's Group E first round match between Brazil and Sweden on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Well, I, and many other football fans across the globe are going to cry a lot. One of the greatest footballers ever, Marta Vieira da Silva — or as the world knows her, Marta — has stated that the 2023 World Cup will be her last.

This is truly the passing of the most glorious torch to ever light a pitch. Marta has been at six World Cups, with her first appearance coming in 2003. Only her former teammate Formiga, with seven, has made more appearances. For a frame of reference, 27 of the 32 teams at this year’s tournament have at least one player that was born in 2003 or later.

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The resumé

The leading all-time scorer in the World Cup, women or men, Marta has found the back of the net 17 times at the tournament over her storied career. She has scored more international goals than all but one man, and sits at 10th for all footballers. Marta was named FIFA World Player of the Year six times, and the list of awards she has won at club level would be an article in itself.

Her sides have won the UEFA Women’s Cup, the Damallsvenskan, and the Women’s Professional Soccer titles. Internationally, she has featured for a Brazil side that won five Copa América titles, two Olympic silver medals in 2004 and 2008, and finished runners-up in the 2007 World Cup.

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The legacy

You cannot overstate the influence that Marta has had on women’s football. I did a little experiment prior to writing this article. I asked people with widely varied experience of the beautiful game to name some women’s footballers. Being based in the US, I specifically asked them to discount US players. I got several folks who could name some of the Canadian players, (you better know who Christine Sinclair is). Women’s Super League fans named tons of players, NWSL fans did well. Everyone loves Jess Fishlock, casual fans got Sam Kerr, and a few of the Lionesses.

One thing stood out though. If they could only name one player, it was Marta. And if their first answer was someone else, they could still all name Marta as well.

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I am proud to say that I am jumping on the Brazil bandwagon this year. I have my favorites, (Hup Holland Hup!) and I have picked my winner, and neither of those are Brazil.

But man, this year, I want As Canarinhas to win it — and the sole reason is so that Marta can lift that trophy she so richly deserves. If you ever want to be inspired, or to see how much football can mean to young people, you absolutely MUST watch Marta’s interview at the World Cup 2019.

She ended it perfectly, turning around that popular theatre phrase I started with this.

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

Cry and smile we certainly will. Até mais, Marta. The football world thanks you for the greatest ride we could have asked for.

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