Opinion – Renata Mendonça: No one will leave a greater legacy than Formiga in Brazilian sport

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Never in the history of Brazilian sport has there been or will be anyone as big as Formiga. That statement sounds bold, I know, but I doubt you’ll make it to the end of this text without agreeing with it. Perhaps few people know in depth the trajectory of Formiga in football, so, taking advantage of the fact that this week she will say goodbye to the Brazilian team – Brazil will face India, on Thursday (25) –, I use this space to draw some lines about this phenomenon national.

It is symbolic that the first female team player to have an official farewell game is Miraildes Maciel Mota, better known as Formiga. Because her story is intertwined with that of women’s football in Brazil and it is even difficult to imagine the Brazilian team without one of its pillars in the last 26 years. Yes, you read correctly. Formiga dedicated 26 years of his life to the national team. He arrived with 17, is leaving with 43.

Football tends to value skill more than longevity. It is not easy, after all, to produce Pelés, Manés, Ronaldinhos, Sissis, Martas. But it’s also rare to find someone willing to devote more than half their life to something that, most of the time, required a lot of sweat and brought little laurels. Of Formiga’s 26 years in the national team, perhaps only the last three have had the visibility, recognition and financial return that a player her size deserves. Before that, there was a lot of resilience, a lot of persistence and an endless struggle to show that women had the right to occupy the lawns and deserved respect.

Formiga started playing in times when women’s football had no future because it was not even possible to say that it existed in the present. When she was born, in 1978, there was a law that prohibited women from playing soccer. The decree fell in 1979, but what the paper released, men continued to prevent.

For Formiga, playing soccer has always been an act of courage. First, to face the brothers, who beat the girl when they found her playing “baba”, as they used to say in Salvador, among the boys. Then, to face the lack of structure and basic conditions for women to play in clubs and even in the national team.

There were a million reasons for Formiga to give up, but she insisted on going against the statistics and changing the prefix and logic of this verb to: persist. He played in his first World Cup in 1995, at the age of 17, borrowing the shirts that were left from the tetra of Romário, Bebeto, Dunga and company.

If that team was resilient carrying the weight of 24 years of World Cup fasting on its back, can you imagine a player who has been carrying a load that doesn’t even belong to her for 26 years? “They never won anything,” they say, without remembering the sweaty Olympic silverware, the seventies of the Copa America, a world runner-up won by force. Because what they never really got was support, recognition, in short, the least. While giving the maximum return on the field.

There were seven World Cups, seven Olympic Games having to explain something that did not concern him. “What did you need to go further, to get the title?” The right questions for the wrong person. Imagine enduring 26 years being the shield of neglect of those who never wanted women’s football to reach the top? Formiga never received anything and, even so, he gave everything.

The records for games by the national team (men and women), Cups and Olympics played can even be surpassed (although difficult). Numbers, impressive as they are, are “just” numbers. But there is no athlete in Brazil who left a greater legacy than Formiga.

The player who became synonymous with the history of women’s football assured us that this one will never end.

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