Soccer icons take pitch one last time
For women’s soccer, making it to the World Cup is a dream come true. The dream could not be possible without trailblazing women fighting for their place on the world stage, equal opportunities, and fair pay.
The 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand could be the last time viewers and competitors see generational athletes like Marta and Christine Sinclair brand their nation on their chests.
Marta, Brazil’s all-time leading scorer, clawed her way to the top of the soccer spotlight. One simply cannot miss her on the field as her energy, prowess, and deep red lipstick shine. Some speculated wearing number 10, made iconic from Pele, would intimidate her, however, she quickly proved her ability to thrive under pressure.
Making her first World Cup debut in 2003, her long and successful career has not come without setbacks and difficulties. Like many women’s teams, the Brazilian team was underfunded and neglected, their federation opting to pour their resources into the men’s program where greats like Neymar and Pele were taking centre stage.
In a country where women previously were banned from playing soccer, to the 2016 Rio Olympics where the men’s side disappointed while the women’s team dominated, “Marta Mania” emerged as fans scratched Neymar’s name from the back of their jerseys and wrote Marta’s instead.
Brazil’s Group Stage exit marks their earliest since 1995, and Marta’s last dance on the international stage.
Perhaps the greatest soccer player of all time, she made an impactful last speech touching the hearts of many viewers, regardless of gender and age.
“When I started playing, I didn’t have an idol, a female idol. You guys didn’t show any female games,” Marta said. “How was I supposed to understand that I could arrive at a national team and become a reference?”
For Canadians, Sinclair is a household name.
She made her international debut at just 16 years old, and now at 40, rumours speculate this could be her last World Cup.
Sinclair rose to stardom through her unbelievable talent and strength, her 185 international goals to prove it. As Canada bowed out in the Group Stage after a 4-0 loss to co-hosts Australia, her legacy certainly will carry on.
As the women’s national team fights in an ongoing battle with Canada Soccer, the captain found herself using her voice to advocate for women’s soccer.
Sinclair added the irritation brewing from players to the federation: “The amount of attention that our men’s national team gets relative to what the women have gotten given our level of success, it’s frustrating.” Outside of the legal issues, Sinclair’s humility, leadership, and technical ability with the ball inspires youth in Canada.
For the next generation who might never get the chance to see Marta or Sinclair play, their names and legacies will live on to show youth the importance of being passionate about the game they love and that impossible is just a word.