The Brazilian Soccer Stars That Aren't Being Celebrated This Summer

Football (soccer, to Americans) is the world’s game, a democratic sport that excludes no one—or so the narrative goes. The reality for female footballers is quite different, but in the World Cup’s host country of Brazil, at least one organization, the Guerreiras Project, is taking advantage of interest in the sport to amplify the voices of its most disenfranchised players. Founded in 2010 by ex-professional player Aline Pellegrino (“Pelle”) and two of her teammates, the Guerreiras (“female warriors” in Portuguese) have set out to transform the way the world sees women in football.

In Brazil, women and girls were banned from the game by governmental decree for 38 years, on the bizarre grounds that the sport was incompatible with “female nature.” Though the prohibition was lifted in 1979, not too much has changed in the time since. Now, girls are permitted to participate, but are hardly encouraged, despite being just as dedicated to the sport, if not more so than men—in 2010, the majority of Brazilians watching the World Cup Games were women. The committed few who pursue football face more challenges and far less rewards than their male counterparts.

Take Marta Vieira da Silva. She’s a five-time FIFA Player of the Year, an Olympian, and a recipient of the Golden Boot, which she won as the top scorer in the 2007 Women’s World Cup. And yet, due to the instability of the Brazilian women’s leagues (both teams she played for went out of business), she plays for Sweden, where gender roles are less entrenched and they have a successful, long running women’s league. Her salary—reported to be around $400,000—is extraordinary for a woman, but it’s a deal that would insult her male counterparts. Ronaldinho has been named FIFA Player of the Year only twice, and he’s paid in the tens of millions.

But compared to most of her peers, Marta’s is a success story. For the vast majority of the female football players in Brazil, pursuing a career in the sport is wholly unrealistic. Their matches receive no publicity, and players are forced to use substandard fields and hand-me-down jerseys from men’s leagues. It’s not an easy lifestyle; many women even take second jobs, live together in crowded rooms, spend much of their time on the road, and pool their tiny stipends to buy necessities like shampoo.

Without role models, career prospects, or the financial incentives available to male players, Brazil’s girls are alienated from one of the nation’s most heartfelt passions.

“Football, in Brazil, is above all other things,” Pelle says. After eight years on the women’s national team—seven of them in the captain’s armband—she of all people understands both the sacrifices and the rewards of the game. “The goal of the project [Guerreiras] is to make girls and women unafraid of their voices and their stories, to have self respect and also to demand respect. Many of them have questions about why things are the way they are and have never had the courage to ask why.”

The World Cup offers a unique opportunity for the Guerreiras. “We’re trying to take advantage of this moment when all the cameras will be on Brazil. We want people to see and hear the voices of women in Brazilian football,” says Pelle.

It’s an important step in what promises to be a long process, but the group is ready for the challenge. “Being Brazilian means being at peace with life in spite of the difficulties that may be,” Pelle says. “Being a Brazilian woman means being a guerreira.”


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less