Paving the way
Even in Cup loss, women move game ahead in Brazil
Posted: Monday October 1, 2007 12:21PM; Updated: Monday October 1, 2007 12:46PM
Last week, for the first time ever, a press conference given by the coach of Brazil's men's team was dominated by the progress of the women.
There are five stars on the jerseys worn by the Brazilian national team -- one for each of the five World Cup wins. The road towards the sixth win started last Thursday, when coach Dunga called up his squad for the first two rounds of qualifiers for South Africa 2010.
A few hours earlier in China, Brazil's women had made it through to their first World Cup final, cutting the U.S. apart on their way to a 4-0 semifinal rout.
If the women were to go on and win the title, Dunga was asked, should Brazil's shirts carry a sixth star -- or a pink star -- in recognition of their achievement?
Dunga used the women as an example of the kind of sacrifice and dedication he requires from his players.
His theme for the day in the press conference was the willingness of Marta, the star player among Brazil's women, to place her extraordinary individual ability at the service of the collective, working back and searching for the ball, striving to make something happen on the field.
It's exactly the approach he says he wants to see from the big-name players in his squad.
We now know, of course, that there is no need for Brazil's jersey designers to worry about finding space for that pink star -- not yet, anyway. In a tightly contested and, at times, exhilarating final on Sunday, Marta missed a key penalty and Brazil went down 2-0 to a German side that went through the entire competition without conceding a single goal.
Even so, Brazil's women can look back on the tournament with enormous pride. And as they take the long flight back from China, they might even conclude that, although they aren't bringing the cup with them, they're coming home with mission partly accomplished.
That Thursday night, almost 11 hours after they had beaten the U.S., some important news appeared on the Web site of the Brazilian Football Confederation. In late October, it announced, a national cup competition for women will get underway in Brazil.
"It will," continued the press release, "be the starting point for the staging of a national championship of women's soccer in the near future."
There is a strikingly defensive tone to the press release. It goes out of its way to mention the fact that Brazil's women's teams make more use than the men of the training facilities for the country's national sides situated in the hills outside Rio de Janeiro.
And it concludes with the assertion that federation president Ricardo Teixeira "is very enthusiastic" to set up national competitions for women, "a project which he has been conducting, without making a big noise about it, for some time."