In Brazil, the losers can also be an inspiration to young girls

Aspiring Martas might take hope from plucky Greminho’s humiliating defeat

Greminho, who lost to 56-0 to Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca Championship. ‘The result is just numbers,’ said Greminho player Duda

Greminho, who lost to 56-0 to Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca Championship. ‘The result is just numbers,’ said Greminho player Duda

 

While there’s a fair chance after the Wednesday that was in it that most little girls will now want to grow up to be Coleen Rooney (or Wagatha Christie as she was so excellently dubbed by people on the internets), down in Brazil those with a grá for football are probably still aspiring to be Marta, the six-time world player of the year who, by common-ish consent, is the greatest woman to have ever played the game.

She’ll be 37 when the next World Cup comes around, and while that will hardly rule her out of being on duty for her country again, there was a bit of an adieu feel to her parting words at last summer’s tournament after Brazil were knocked out by hosts France in the last 16.

In a plea so impassioned that her eyes welled up, Marta urged young female footballers back in Brazil to pick up the baton from the likes of herself and two of her esteemed team-mates to ensure that Brazilian women’s football would have a bright future.

“There’s not going to be a Formiga forever, there’s not going to be a Marta forever, there’s not going to be a Cristiane. Women’s football depends on you to survive. Think about it, value it more. Cry now so you can smile at the end.”

You couldn’t, then, but think of Marta’s call to arms when poor old Greminho became a laughing stock last week following their defeat by Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca Championship. And by “defeat” we’re talking the mother of all mullerings here. It was 7-0 after 10 minutes, 29-0 by half-time, but, happily, Flamengo showed some mercy in the second half, only adding 27 more goals. So, 56-0 in the end. The day’s most competitive battle was possibly the one between Atacante Raiza and Flavia for the match ball, both of them having scored 11 goals.

Not even the mitigating circumstances saved the players from ridicule.

Patch of wasteland

The amateur team, from the suburb of Cosmos, west of Rio de Janeiro, were only formed a month before the game, training just three times before the fixture, having been invited to compete in the professional Championship because there were just 29 entrants and the Rio Federation (FERJ) wanted each of the six groups to contain five teams.

We were told to go back to the kitchen, look after our children, that our place wasn’t in football

The club has no actual home, using a patch of wasteland in Cosmos for their training, one that isn’t big enough for 11 v 11 games, so they play six v six. There are no changing rooms so players must arrive for training in their kits. Several of the squad have no football boots, they have no nets for the goals, no shin guards, and they have just six footballs which are shared among the club’s women’s, men’s, under-15 and under-17 teams. The kit is also shared among the four sides. (Members of the Irish women’s squad: “Been there!”)

The women’s coach, Hamilton Silva, uses his own money to buy what he can to keep the team going, the local community also chipping in, the players, largely from disadvantaged backgrounds, not asked to pay any fees.

They had no fit goalkeeper going in to the game and the player given the decidedly unpleasant task of wearing the number one jersey went off injured, being replaced by defender Muriel.

There followed, well, humiliation.

That thing called social media wasn’t kind. “We were told to go back to the kitchen, look after our children, that our place wasn’t in football,” Greminho captain Maria “Duda” Eduarda told Globo Esporte, “but a woman’s place is where we want it. And we will keep on following our dreams. Dream of being a player. Of getting a chance to live on football alone.”

Sheer love

But a funny thing happened after it all: if Greminho were crying initially, they were smiling in the end. Because their story got told, and it resembled that of countless clubs in countless codes in every corner of the globe. Playing for the sheer love of it, and propped up by volunteers, like Silva, the kind of people who keep communities alive.

We realised a dream. Without structure and with many difficulties, we had the courage to face a giant

Some of the players took to (anti) social media after the game to fight back against the ridicule. “Yes, I played against Flamengo,” said Jhe Oliveira. “I saw 56 goals pass through my eyes. But I also saw that we didn’t play dirty, we didn’t cheat by throwing ourselves on the ground, we fought and did our best. I am not ashamed. But it is easier to talk shit. But as a family, we will always be together.”

“Yes, I played against Flamengo,” said Iriana Carlos de Souza. “I am grateful to have participated in the beginning of a project within women’s football. We made history for having lost a match by such a score but also for being the first team in our neighbourhood to play in a professional match. We realised a dream. Without structure and with many difficulties, we had the courage to face a giant. So talk less and more support.”

And Duda: “I know I gave my best, like everyone else. We just have to thank God for the opportunity he gave us and we invite him to come to our next game. We are not going to leave!”

Unapologetic

He turned up too, Greminho only losing 6-1 to Seleção da Cufa, their goal celebrated like there would never be a tomorrow.

In the face of criticism for pitting Greminho against a team that is part of the Brazilian footballing giant that is Flamengo, the FERJ was unapologetic. “Visibility is first, the technical aspect is second,” they said in a statement. “Martas and Formigas are not manufactured in laboratories nor do they sprout on the ground without being planted. Rather than criticising the participants, you have to think about the great opportunities that football delivers. We applaud the fair play and courage of the players, as well as the club that has set out on the first step of this important journey, opening the doors of hope.”

Duda’s final take on it all is one we should all use for comfort next time our team gets pulverised. “The result,” she said, “is just numbers.”

Off to buy a Greminho replica shirt.

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