The women are a shining example of professional grade soccer playing. Although they share similar uniforms to their male counterpart players, their professional playing experiences are quite different then the male players. According to Aline Pelegrino, the recently retired former women’s national team captain. She says, “Brazil is not the greatest land of football. It is the greatest land of men’s football. If you are a woman and you want to play, it is not the same.” Sexism in Brazilian soccer is deep rooted. There is smaller crowds for matches and the women receive less media coverage. The same can also be said though for every country in the world.
Young Brazilian girls and women also face drastically limited opportunities in soccer with active discouragement from parents and society and a constant battle against outdated stereotypes. Female players on professional teams have been discouraged from having short hair. Taunts from male spectators frequently included the derogatory Portuguese term for “lesbian”, according to Caitlin Fisher a Harvard graduate and former pro-player who moved to Brazil when the American women’s league WUSA folded in 2003. People really put women on a lot of social pressure not to play soccer. Soccer is associated with masculinity in Brazil. It is a very traditional male defined sport.
Brazil’s men’s team has won soccer’s biggest prize five times and its crushing defeat to Germany in recent year’s semi-finals was considered a national tragedy. The women’s side has yet to win a world title losing in the final in 2007. Given all the obstacles the players have to overcome, the fact that the women are consistent contenders is a victory in itself. “We are hungry to win the World Cup.” said Marta, Brazil’s standout player and one of the most exciting talents in the tournaments. “But we also want to inspire girls in our country to play and to believe in themselves. That is very important.” While there are still limitations, some progress for women’s sports in Brazil have been made.
At least women’s soccer is not banned in Brazil anymore. It was banned by government decree from 1941 to 1979 in Brazil. By then in the United States as well as in other countries, women’s soccer was becoming very popular. Regardless, women soccer players fight in Brazil for respect. Many learn to play on the streets of Brazil’s slum towns. Brazil has the most successful women’s national team in South America having won the first four installments of the Copa America. Since 1999 they have been contenders for the world title. Brazil won the silver medal twice in the Olympic Games. Marta the star of the women’s national team was ranked the best in the world five times. FIFA International’s governing body estimates that 29 million women and girls play the sport now and that 12 percent of all players are girls. Women’s soccer is here to stay and will grow even faster with more support from governing officials, the public and other sport professionals.