Marta Named FIFA Top Women Player; Local Brazilian Community Abuzz
With the announcement by FIFA naming Brazil's Marta as their Women's World Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive year, I hurried to my virtual rolodex in an attempt to try to score a Brazilian perspective on the award.
Amongst the thousands of names which have found their way into my growing list of connections, I didn't expect to find too many who make the land of Carnival their home. The Brazilian population in my rural town of Winchendon, MA can probably be counted on one hand.
Then I remembered a gentleman I had met at my first WPS Breaker's game last spring. I tried desperately to jump start my memory to recall his name.
After scurrying through every letter from A to R, I came upon the name "Marcus Santos" and knew I had struck pay-dirt.
Santos and his band Bloco Afro-Brazil, had entertained the crowd of Breaker's fans playing their Brazilian styled beat from the end zone of historic Harvard Stadium.
They added a Brazilian flare to the game reminiscent of the World Cup and created an excitement which would become synonymous with Breaker brand soccer as the season went on.
Since the Breakers were playing Marta and the Los Angeles Sol that day, I assumed the band was there to root for their native hero. I later found out that they planned to attend every Breakers game and add the Bloco sound to each home contest.
"We're here to pump it up for the Breakers," said an excited Santos, who played a beautiful wood grain bongo and occasionally blasted a loud golden whistle while the band cranked.
The handsome Brazilian with the toothy white grin wore a green bandanna on his head and a bright yellow tank top to match the Brazilian flag, which waved in the Cambridge breeze. "This is our first Breaker game and we are so happy to be part of this great event."
The band's official name, Bloco, simply means Group explained Santos, who can only be described as refreshing and exuberant.
I later found out that Santos is a contemporary percussionist, educator, and native of Salvador City in Bahia, Brazil.
Having been raised in the uniquely rich African-influenced culture of Bahia, Santos has committed his life to the study, preservation, and teaching of Afro-Brazilian music and heritage.
I emailed my friend Marcos and hoped he remembered me from our interview many months ago.
Much to my pleasure he did and was nice enough to share his thoughts on the latest hardware Marta will be displaying on her mantle.
"This is huge in Brazil," explained Santos, who has been called one of the best Brazilian percussionists by the Brazilian Times. "Brazil is still a society that sees soccer as a male sport. It is very interesting to see that in the US, soccer is more associated with women and it is completely the opposite in Brazil."
"Therefore, it's great to see that both countries are changing the way they perceive soccer as a sport."
Santos feels that Marta's popularity in Brazil is increasing and that some day she may grow in popularity to the level of male stars like Pele, Ronaldo, and Kaka.
"We may not see this anytime soon," he explained, but if Brazil’s women soccer team wins a world championship or an Olympic gold medal (the Brazilian men's team has never won a gold medal), she could be as popular as the men's legends."
He views the game of women's soccer in the United States as being quite different in popularity than it is in his native country.
"I believe women's soccer is very popular in the US, especially if compared to the popularity in Brazil. When the Brazilian men’s team plays, the country literally stops. You see very few cars and people in the streets.
"I can see that changing in the next few years in Brazil, especially if Marta keeps doing what she is doing and is able to accumulate a few championships over the years."
He explained that when Marta plays against the Breakers there is a buzz throughout the Boston-area Brazilian community.
"As you know, I play with my group at the Boston Breakers games and I realized quickly that the news of her coming to play in Boston spread very fast within our community in New England. Our people love her and really got involved."
Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report and Sports, Then and Now. You can find his top stories on his own blog "The 'xoxo' of Sports ". Marcus Santos website can be found at marcussantos.com . His CD Batukaxe' is available at CD Baby.com
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