Saturday 29 July 2023, 01:30

From Marta’s passionate plea to a rosy-looking future

  • The forward signed off at the 2019 finals in France by urging those in Brazilian women’s football to consider the state of the game

  • Simone Jatobá and Ana Lorena Marche are part of the change inspired by the striker’s impassioned post-match interview

  • The pair have both participated in FIFA’s women’s football development programmes

Marta’s inspirational words clearly struck a chord with Simone Jatobá and Ana Lorena Marche.

Just a matter of minutes earlier, Brazil had been edged out of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ by the hosts at the round-of-16 stage, and with a shaky voice, Marta called on those involved in women’s football in her homeland to show a greater awareness of the state of play.

“This is a special moment and we’ve got to make the most of it in the sense that we have to appreciate things more … I’d have loved to be here with a smile on my face, and even crying with joy. That’s the most important thing: you’ve got to cry at the start so you can smile at the end,” pleaded the legendary number 10.

“It’s all about wanting more, training harder and taking better care of yourself … As I tell the young girls: Formiga, Marta and Cristiane won’t be around forever. The survival of women’s football is down to you. Think about that, appreciate things more. Cry at the start so you can smile at the end,” concluded the As Canarinhas ace during her emotive pitchside plea.

Four years on, Brazil are amongst the contenders to lift the coveted crown at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, with Marta still very much the team’s guiding light. However, there have been many changes in the Brazilian women’s game, particularly off the pitch, since her iconic interview.

This is where Simone Jatobá, the head coach of the Brazil women’s U-17 side, and Ana Lorena Marche, coordinator of the women’s national teams at the Brazilian Football Association (CBF), come in.

From the pitch to the dugout

A former international midfielder, Jatobá lined up alongside Marta during an eight-year national-team career (2000-2008). The pair were part of the Brazil side that finished runners-up at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in China PR back in 2007, while they both featured in the squad that clinched silver at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. Given their shared past, it is little wonder that Marta’s message resonated so strongly with the Maringá native.

“I was playing for Lyon in France at the time, and CANAL+ invited me along to commentate on the game and I interpreted the interview,” Jatobá told FIFA.com. “It struck a chord with me because we fought hard to get to where we are today. She was calling for more support and a more responsible approach. Those of us who played abroad could see what things were like in other countries: the conditions, the investment, etc. We needed more of that in Brazil.

Simone Jatoba of Brazil talks to Ana Grazyelle during the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2022

We began to see improvements in several areas after that World Cup, not only because of Marta’s message – which was powerful and resonated with so many – but also because they were necessary changes,” explained the 42-year-old tactician, who learned her coaching trade in French football.

One such change saw Jatobá being appointed coach of the U-17 women’s national team in August 2019, a few short months after she called time on her playing career. “I’m pleased to be part of this process and to be helping to develop our youth players. We didn’t used to have the established youth set-up that we currently do, in which in addition to the U‑17 side, we also have a U-15 team. Although the pandemic forced us to put the brakes on some of our initiatives, we’re now rediscovering that impetus.”

In Jatobá’s eyes, constant capacity-building holds the key to growth, and in that sense, she is quick to point to her participation in the second edition of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme. “I thought it’d be just like other courses, but it’s several steps ahead. Everyone involved is at the top of the game in their respective fields,” commented the coach, who led Brazil to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™.

Simone Jatoba and Corinne Diacre are seeing during the FIFA Coach Mentorship programme workshop

The CBF tactician has been paired up with Corinne Diacre, the former coach of the France women’s senior team, in the mentoring scheme. “The experience sharing is fantastic, innovative and in depth. There’s really no better way to share knowledge than getting to see Corinne at work at close quarters or for her to come and watch me in my working environment,” explained Jatobá.

The Brazilian FA youth coach hails the job that Pia Sundhage has done since taking charge of the women’s senior national team in the wake of the 2019 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and understands exactly why there are such high hopes for the side in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. However, she is keen not to associate the progress that has been made behind the scenes with the promising on-field results.

“The process is under way, and if the national team don’t fare well, it won’t be down to a lack of investment or the process that was implemented. Every other country is developing too and ultimately, only one team can win. There have been many positive changes and we’ll carry on this journey of growth.”

Love of game fuels management career

Marche would have loved nothing more than to have made it as a footballer, but she played futsal until resigning herself to the fact that her calling in life lay away from the football pitch. “I studied and have a doctorate in physical education. I didn’t think that I’d end up working in women’s football until I realised in 2016 that I could do a job on the management side. I joined Ferroviária in that year and we won everything going, and the club is now one of the top teams in South America,” she told FIFA.com from her current base in Adelaide/Ātararia.

Marche was working at the Araraquara outfit when Marta issued her post-match appeal. “I was in France watching the Women’s World Cup, and I thought that her message was very powerful. That was what motivated me to be a part of this change. That tournament represented a turning point for the CBF across all aspects of the women’s game, not just in terms of investment,” commented the 38-year-old football executive.

Ana Lorena Marche, Brazilian Football Association Women's National Team Manager during the Women's Football Leadership Programme

Following a three-year stint at Ferroviária, Marche took up a role at the São Paulo FA – one of the leading governing bodies in the domestic football scene – where she spent two years before being appointed as the coordinator of the women’s national teams at the Brazilian FA in February 2022.

“It’s so satisfying for me to see that not only has the CBF invested heavily, but it has also made great efforts to professionalise women’s football. This is a dream come true for me,” she proudly admitted.

Marche spoke in glowing terms about her participation in the fourth edition of the FIFA Women in Football Leadership Programme. “My aim was to find out more about myself as a professional and manager. It helped me to discover my strengths and the areas in which I needed to learn and improve.”

The football administrator also cited another benefit offered by the programme: “It was really good to come across women who work in the same field as me, not only to share knowledge, but also to establish a more robust and useful network.”

Marche also touched on the topic of gender equality within the game. “We need more women in management roles, not just in women’s football, but in the men’s game, too. If a committee is made up of a more diverse group of people, it inevitably results in greater diversity in terms of management decisions. That’s what we’re seeking to achieve as we look to retain our status as one of the leading national teams in the world and across South America.”

The women’s national-team coordinator also talked about other pillars for growth, stating that there is an ever-increasing “need for women’s coaches who are better trained in academic terms in youth football and for us to reach every corner of Brazil. Our national teams don’t even cover 1% of the country’s female players.”

Looking to the future, Marche has a clear idea about where the Brazilian FA’s objectives lie. “The overall process doesn’t depend on our fortunes at this World Cup, winning trophies comes down to the fine margins. The development of our youth set-up is well established, and the results will be a consequence of our work in that area. Nothing can erase all the work that’s been done to return Brazilian football to its place at the top table while remaining faithful to our characteristic playing style.”

Women's Football