Thursday 24 February 2022, 19:00

Ary: It’s a huge honour to play alongside Marta

  • Ary, 22, has been dazzling for Brazil

  • She discusses her love of Lionel Messi and playing alongside Marta

  • Ary assesses whether Palmeiras can challenge Corinthians this year

“She dances more than Michael Jackson.” Ary Borges may have been tongue in cheek when she wrote those words on TikTok, embellishing them with a zany face emoji, to accompany a video of her shuffling to the funk tune, but recently the 22-year-old playmaker has been dancing as frequently as ‘The King of Pop’ did during the Thriller era. That period’s six-month zenith remains the most monopolising, ground-breaking and commercially successful period in musical history, and Ary has composed equally fairy-tale tunes over the last half-year. On social media, it’s long been habitual to the music-loving Maranhense. On grass, dancing through defences, and to celebrate goals, has rocketed in recurrence. Ary made her Brazil debut in September, scored three times in the final and was named player of the tournament as she conquered her first title with Palmeiras in November, netted her first goals in the hallowed Brazil jersey later that month, seized her first trophy with her country in December, and started all three matches for Pia Sundhage’s side at the Tournoi de France. Before flying back from Paris to Sao Paulo on Wednesday night, Ary spoke to FIFA about her explosion on to the scene, idolisation of Lionel Messi, playing alongside Marta, FIFA Women’s World Cup™ dreams and Palmeiras’ challenge to Corinthians’ hegemony.

FIFA: Can you tell us where your idolisation of Lionel Messi came from, and is it true you get into some pretty heated Messi-versus-Ronaldo debates? Ary Borges: When I started watching football a little more, I was always watching videos of Ronaldinho Gaucho when he was at Barcelona. I thought it was really cool the way Ronaldinho was with Messi. I started to follow Barcelona games and I ended up falling in love with Messi’s football. He became my biggest idol. The Messi-Cristiano thing, it's something we joke about, me and my friends. It’s one of those topics that always comes up. I’m a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s an outstanding player, but I’m a ‘Messizete’ so I will always defend him against Cristiano Ronaldo! In recent months you’ve established yourself as a starter for the Seleção. You must be very happy with your performances? Yes, I am. I’ve been given this opportunity by Pia. It’s a transition period. I’m trying to make the most of it, to work hard every day to keep getting called up.

What was it like to take part in Formiga’s farewell game for the Seleção? It was such a cool experience. Formiga is a legend not just in Brazilian football but in women’s football as a whole. It was an honour to be a part of that unforgettable day. It was an important day for women’s football. It was a really special day and it was even more special for me – I scored my first goal in the Seleção shirt.

Talking of legends, what’s it like to play alongside Marta? (laughs) It was a dream when I first played alongside Marta and it’s still a dream. When you think about the Brazilian national team, you think about Marta. She’s a great person, a great player. I’m very happy to be able to share a pitch with her and spend time with her. It’s a huge honour. I’m really happy to be sharing this really nice time with her in the Seleção. It’s a dream.

Marta dazzled at the Tournoi de France. Brazil drew with the Netherlands, lost 2-1 to France and had a goalless draw with Finland. How would you assess the campaign? The Seleção is going through a transition period. With every transition period, it’s a little difficult at the start, it takes time. But we’re learning what Pia wants from us tactically, we’re growing. I think that we played well against great national teams. Obviously we wanted to become champions, but I think we really learned a lot and our performances showed that we are on the right track.

At the tournament, Brazil fielded several graduates from the class of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2018 in France: you, Geyse, Kerolin, Angelina and Ana Vitoria… It was really cool for us all. We were discussing this actually. We have wonderful memories from the U-20 World Cup and it was a great experience. It was the last tournament we played together at youth level and now we are in France together again. I’m really grateful to be with the senior Seleção and be part of this transition process.

Ary Borges scores a goal at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018™

How much have you dreamt of playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup? Yes, it’s a huge dream. But we have to think of the short-term. The Copa America is upcoming and we have to win to earn a place at the World Cup. But of course it would be realising a huge dream wearing the Seleção shirt in the World Cup. Palmeiras have made a real splash in the transfer market, making seven signings including Bea Zaneratto and Andressinha. What do you think of the business the club has done? I think that without doubt we’ve strengthened what was already a great team. This is a huge season for Palmeiras. We have the Libertadores, the Brasileiro, the Paulista. We have a really busy schedule and we needed the signings. Furthermore, they’re top players who have really improved the level of the team. We want to be reaching finals again and, God willing, winning titles this year.

All-conquering Corinthians won those three tournaments you mentioned in 2021, and recently beat Palmeiras en route to the Supercopa do Brasil title. Can Palmeiras get the better of them this year? I think they’re two great teams. Football’s really unpredictable. Corinthians are an outstanding team, we know that, but we’ve been working towards getting the better of them. We’ve made great signings. I think we’re better than we were last year. We’re in a transition process but we’ll give it everything we have. What did you think of Palmeiras’s FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ campaign? I was rooting for them so much. I feel like I think every Palmeirense feels: really proud of the team. To compete against a great team like Chelsea, to give them such a tough game, you have to be proud. It almost came off for us. They gave it their best and they made us all feel really proud to be Palmeiras supporters.

Speaking of pride, how proud are you of yourself, coming from where you do and having had all this success? I’m proud. I’m very proud of myself. When I was ten years old, I could have never imagined being where I am now. I’m doing what I love. I represent a great club in my country and wear the Seleção shirt. I think ‘pride’ is the word that summarises it best. I’m realising dreams. Finally, who do you consider the best player in the world today? (laughs) I could easily say Marta. She’s my team-mate and she’s up there. But I think right now other players have been shining too. The number one? Hmmm, let me think (pauses)… [Vivianne] Miedema. She’s having another great season. Right now she’d get my vote.