Disillusioned by their men, Brazilian soccer fans looking for heroes are turning to Marta and their women, who are playing at the World Cup in France.
While spectators booed the men’s team off the field following their latest match, a 0-0 draw on Tuesday against Venezuela in the Copa America in the Brazilian town of Salvador, TV viewers were enthralled by the women’s 1-0 win over Italy in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup match in Valenciennes, France.
“At least they don’t roll around like Neymar,” said Wellington Dias, a convert to women’s soccer, in a sly dig at the world’s most expensive player.
The men’s team messed up their past two World Cup appearances in 2014 and last year, and have failed to fill stadiums during their Copa America campaign at home.
They were booed and jeered during their last outing on Tuesday, the goalless draw against a poor Venezuela side, while the women set World Cup dreams alight, winning against a gifted and well-drilled Italy.
Dias, surrounded by fellow fans at a bar in downtown Rio, was watching the Italy game and cheering the women on.
“The women are better than the men,” he said. “I watch all their matches on TV.”
Marta, 33, a national treasure, unlike the troubled Neymar, fired the winning goal from the penalty spot that put Brazil into the last 16.
The goal was her 17th in World Cup finals, a record for both men and women.
She dedicated the score to equality, at a time when women’s soccer is making a breakthrough worldwide and notably in the home of Pele’s beautiful game.
The women’s match was broadcast live during the working day, competing with popular daytime soaps, but still winning a 46 percent audience share in Rio.
The men’s game, broadcast in prime time later in the evening, claimed 53 percent, according to broadcaster Globo TV.
The gap is still there, but narrowing dramatically. TV audiences watching women’s soccer have grown 151 percent since the last World Cup in Canada in 2015, according to Konta Ibope, a TV ratings agency.
For every 60 minutes spent watching matches then, fans are spending 80 minutes now.
“The affection, respect and admiration of the fans for the women’s team is growing with every competition,” Globo director for sports events Joana Thimoteo said.
The feelings are reflected in the media, with front pages of key newspapers on Wednesday devoted to Marta and the women’s team, while the back pages and the scandal sheets are reserved for the men.
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