Ever heard that expression, “Don’t wake the bear?” Well consider me a bear that has just been poked with a particularly annoying Brazilian stick.
First, let me start off by saying that I never, ever like to speak ill of any women’s soccer player. Although I have my favorites, and my not so favorites I have an extreme overall love, admiration and respect for this sport and the women who play it. If you haven’t guessed it, the Brazilian ‘stick’ waking me, is Marta. The topic of Marta has always gotten me all fired up for many reasons. The still young career of 5-time Player of the Year, Marta has been an impressive one. She has never been a favorite of mine nor will she ever be a favorite of mine. But I will start by saying that I believe she is the most skilled female player in the world over the ball. There is no denying her incredible ability including her first touch, her quick feet and her deceptive moves befuddling defenders. But I don’t find her vision to be anything extraordinary, I don’t find her shot to be one of the best in the world (although still very good), and I don’t find her leadership to be…well…I don’t see any leadership. When her team goes down she resorts to yelling at them, yelling at the ref, diving and getting chippy (to say the least) against the opposing team. Just because someone is monumentally skilled over the ball doesn’t make them a Player of the Year in my book. That makes them the “Most Skilled Player of the Year”. She has made great strides for women’s soccer in her country and has helped Brazil become a top contender. So again, I give credit where credit is due. But I just cannot get behind a Player of the Year who is phenomenal in one or two aspects of the game, very good in other, and nonexistent in some. I want to see a woman win that award who is a consistent force to be reckoned with in every aspect of the game. Homare Sawa and Abby Wambach’s nominations this year made me thrilled for that reason. They are both true leaders and all around impeccable players. Wambach and Sawa, without a doubt lead their countries through not only their talent and skill but in motivation and belief. Sawa’s win, (although I was strongly pulling for Wambach) was a refreshing change and I was thrilled for her. She made things happen for her team that some could never fathom. The loss still stings from the WWC, but Sawa is beyond deserving. But seeing Marta still come in above Wambach made my stomach feel like I had just eaten gas station sushi.
For the past few years while Marta has played in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) here in the USA, she has been raking in the dough. Pay close attention now: I will NEVER be upset that a female soccer player is being ‘overpaid’. Because guess what…compared to any men’s sport there is no female athlete on planet earth who is being overpaid. But, I will be upset when there is someone being overpaid in comparison to other athletes on the pitch who do more to grow the sport here. Does anyone really think that after the Women’s World Cup those 15k+ fans poured into Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester to see Marta? No. They paid for a ticket to see Abby Wambach speak at halftime and other U.S. stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to play that day. They went and bought #13 Western NY jerseys and screamed and cried for Wambach’s autograph. We’re in America. This will be the case in any WPS game. (That being my example due to the record breaking ticket sales that day.) My point being…in an American league, American players are going to bring more people into a stadium, therefore making the league more money. I am more than willing to admit (unlike some who insist on putting false information or made up guesses made out to be facts out there) I’m no financial expert or sports agent so I don’t know exactly how all that works. But it seems if they are the ones bringing the money in, why is Marta the one financially being treated like she’s the Michael Jordan of the WPS? (I don’t know enough current sports people outside of soccer so you’re just going to have to deal with my 90’s NBA reference)
Furthermore, I know Marta doesn’t speak fluent English. So it is hard for her to do many interviews or press related events. I have nothing against her as a person and have heard she is a fun person to be around but not many would know that because interviews or media events with her are few and far between. So anyone saying that she brings in media coverage is as delusional as Brazil was when they thought they were going to beat the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup this year. I don’t blame her for not speaking English fluently (although she has been here for long enough to be decent at it) but it just doesn’t make sense to try and say she is going to be some sort of media darling in the U.S. if she can’t even conduct an interview without an interpreter.
Briefly, I want to bring up Hope Solo. Solo has received some really harsh criticism from many people over her dedication to the WPS. They have said she is “Hollywood” now and only cares about herself and the U.S. Women’s National Team, not caring about the WPS. If I could speak to these people directly it wouldn’t be a pleasant meeting that would be appropriate for anyone under the age of 18. Hope Solo has done more for women’s soccer in this country in one year than some people are able to do in a lifetime. Do you honestly think that if she is that dedicated to USWNT, that she wouldn’t also be dedicated to the league in this country that helps form the USWNT? A league that will in the future, help mold and develop new young players for the USWNT? And recently, she made the decision that I hope blew up directly in her critics’ faces when she signed with her hometown W-League Team, Seattle Sounders Women. So not only is she staying domestic, but she is going to her home turf making endless amounts of fans thrilled. She is the best goal keeper in the entire world. She could have gone anywhere. But she chose to stay domestic. Now what does all this have to do with Marta? Well, let’s see…while Solo was being blasted for not speaking up on the WPS situation and being slammed for saying she doesn’t care about WPS…where was Marta? Was she making grand speeches about the importance of WPS? Was she speaking out in favor of the league? Not a chance. So why is Solo being held solely responsible for being a star who apparently “doesn’t care” about WPS when the highest paid player in WPS sits back in the shadows silently getting no ridicule, planning her departure to Sweden?
Last, I’ll be completely honest; I think it is just hard for me to want to like anyone from the Brazilian team. I’ll never be able to look at Marta and not see her and her entire team doing everything in their power to beat their opponents in ways that disgrace the beautiful game. It’s true…on any team in any league there is a large amount of acting, diving and flopping. Every one dives here and there, everyone deserves their own Oscar from time to time; USA included. But Brazil deserves the entire Kodak Theater at Oscar time and every single last Oscar trophy in it. I simply cannot respect that style of play.
In conclusion of my coffee fueled rant, it comes down to this: There are aspects of Marta’s game that amaze me. But as far as her leaving the WPS; I have no morsel of sadness. I wish her the best of luck in Sweden who has a very competitive league and I’m sure she’ll do great there. But I will not miss her here. It’s time to focus on the W-League and the WPSL making an impact this year. Especially with the help of players like Hope Solo making the decision to stay domestic. I look forward to seeing the development in this country with our women’s leagues with or without Marta, while I also look forward to seeing us play against Marta on the national stage.
Oh and PS: Marta, I’m still trying to find an address to send a gift basket to you and the Brazilian team. The card reads: “Thank you for giving the U.S. ample amounts of stoppage time to score after your truly inspiring performances crawling around on the turf at the World Cup this year.” I hope you guys like Edible Arrangements!
…Sorry. Couldn’t resist.