On one hand I fear that this blog is starting to become something of a Marta fanzine. On the other hand, she is brilliant. Brilliant like the sun. An unparalleled genius in her sport.
Nevertheless, in comparison to the men’s game, there is a dearth of Marta coverage in the mainstream media, particularly the American mainstream media where men’s football also has to fight for coverage. (In fairness, it should be noted that compared to Marta, the rest of women’s football is practically in the shadows.) When there are stories about Marta, they tend to be depressing if complimentary. Always about the struggles of the women’s game. This is unfortunately a trap that is all too easy to fall into, and I admit that I have often fallen into also. Today, I want to offer a different perspective.
We are fortunate to be living in an extraordinary era for both the men’s and women’s games. On the men’s side, Lionel Messi, a once in a generation talent, is spearheading one of the greatest club sides ever to both world domination and aesthetic perfection. The last time a team that aesthetically pleasing played that dominantly was in Mexico in 1970.
And on the women’s side we have Marta. Like Messi, she is heads and shoulders above the competition. When the history books are written Marta may very well be considered sui generis, a once in history occurrence. It is not surprising that Marta and Messi both have some very similar qualities: both are short, both are young, and both have unparalleled technique. Both can dribble far better than anyone else in the world, and this dribbling leads to absolutely glorious play (and goals)–futebol arte in its highest form. Those are the same qualities that were also found in two of history’s other greats: Maradona and Garrincha.
The purpose of this post though is actually to get you to watch this goal from Marta. And to share the following quote from the accompanying article. “The media in Brazil have reacted with delight to the wonder goal, comparing it to anything scored by the likes of Pele, Maradona and Zico.”
Finally, finally, Marta is getting her due in her home country. Naturally it happened when she played for Santos. It could only happen with Santos. The fact that the world’s finest female player is playing for the same storied club that the sport’s (arguably) greatest male player played for is forcing the Brazilian people to take notice of the women’s game. Hopefully this will be an upward trajectory. Maybe the WPS could capitalize off this too somehow.
In his book Football in Sun and Shadow, the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano says of the goal:
“The goal is football’s orgasm. . . . . The excitement unleashed whenever the white bullet makes the net ripple might appear mysterious or crazy, but remember the miracle doesn’t happen very often. The goal, even if it be a little one, is always a goooooooooooooooooooooal in the throat of the commentators, a “do” snug from the chest that would leave Caruso forever mute, and the crowd goes nuts and the stadium forgets that it’s made of concerete and breaks free of the earth and flies through the air.”
No one could describe a goal better than Galeano. I have often tried to explain to my football-fearing loved ones that a goal is more than than just the kicking of the ball into the net. It is also everything that precedes the goal: the dribbling, the passing, the misses, the fouls, the saves, and (especially) the tension built up through near-nonstop action. The goal is indeed an orgasm; it is the sport’s sole vehicle for the emotional, physical, and spiritual release of the match’s tension. Clip shows and YouTube videos cannot do the goal complete justice, because without the context of the preceding action, emotional attachment does not exist. Nevertheless, clips are adequate for showing cold technical brilliance, particularly for solo efforts like Marta’s (or Messi’s). And that brilliance can still bring a smile, or dropped jaw, or a tear.
Just as Messi and Barcelona are rewriting the rules of the men’s game, Marta is singlehandedly rewriting the rules of the women’s game. Moments of brilliance are not uncommon in football; even the journeyman can have his moment in the sun. But genius sustained over a career, that is to something to treasure. That is why it is such a blessing to see Messi and Marta right now. Their magic enables us mere mortals to also break free of the earth and fly through the air.