Stubbornness. If there is one word to describe how I got here, that would be stubbornness. Of course, talent, dedication, and taking absolute advantage of all the opportunities I had, all of this made a big difference. But were I not stubborn, my career would not even have started…
I reached the age of 30 with an extensive résumé. I play in Europe. I was the first person elected as the best player in the world five times, a record for men and women equaled only by Messi last year. I wear the number 10 jersey for the Brazilian national team. In World Cups, I am the top scorer in history, with 15 goals – if I score but two more goals in 2019, I will leave even Klose behind and lead the rankings for both men and women. The more than a hundred goals (101, to be precise) I scored wearing the yellow jersey put on the top of the list of the absolute scorers for the National Team – leaving the second place to no other than Pelé, the greatest of all. My feet are on Maracanã stadium’s Walk of Fame , and I am the first woman to ever have been paid this tribute. In 2010, the UN appointed me World Ambassador, a title I carry along with the mission to work for the empowerment of women as a way to combat poverty.
Anyone who reads about my achievements, condensed into a paragraph, might think I have lived a dream. And that may even be true, but getting here was no easy task. The effort I made to get where I got is very distant from the little concrete field of dreams.
Vindicating oneself in sports in Brazil is already an amazing feat, but just think if you do so in women’s soccer, which has fallen victim to the neglect of both the leaders and, why not say it, the to the macho society. From an early age, at my little town of Dois Riachos, in the interior of the state of Alagoas, I had to convince boys I could play ball. I used to always kick plastic bags up and down to prove to others that I could be just as good as anyone. People look down at a girl playing ball in the middle of a lot of boys. So did my family. But, as I said, when I make my mind up about something, I am the only person who can argue myself out of it. When I was 14, there was a scout from Vasco da Gama who took me to the club, where I started my professional career.
The hurdles to face were tremendous. Just think about it: In my country, the so-called “Country of Soccer,” my sport is still seen as an amateur endeavor. In Europe, many athletes live off of soccer, and are followed by thousands of fans. National and international championships have been around for a long time. Just to mention an example, the Swedish Women’s League has been around since 1988. Female Brazilian players continue fighting for the creation of a women’s league.
But I was always very combative. Stubborn, you know? I never gave up on anything. When I was a kid, I remember that not even girls wanted me to take part in physical activities because, as they would say, “Oh, she will win anyway.” So I tried not to get discouraged, because I needed an opponent to be able to achieve my goals.
That is how I am. That is how I’ll always be.
I have completed 30 Springs – and am already among the team’s “experienced” players – the same year that I have, literally, a golden opportunity: To win the gold medal for Brazil at home, in #Rio2016.
Having the opportunity to defend the yellow jersey in yet another competition, and one of this scale, to me seems like an award for all the sweat I shed throughout my career. The difficulties and praise in Sweden, the learning I made in the American Soccer League, playing for Pelé’s Santos, all the records, victories and defeats with the National Team. A few days before the opening of the Olympics, I feel that my entire career was written just for me to get here.
I had opportunities throughout my life – and grabbed on to them the best I could – but I shall never forget where I came from. And I think this is how you should manage your career: Focusing on the doors that open; with special attention to the future that is drawn, always trying to anticipate the rough plays, but with your memories always honed in on your roots, so that life will not let you forget who you really are.
Who am I? Stubborn.
This post was translated from the Portuguese by LinkedIn. The original can be read here. The author cannot respond to comments in English, but welcomes a conversation among readers.