RIO DE JANEIRO -- Marta is considered by many to be the best female soccer player ever, but don’t try to compare her to Neymar or any other man.
Marta, who’s been a star for her country since she was just 16 years old, helped Brazil beat China by 3-0 in the opening match at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Her performance, which included an impressive assist on Brazil’s second goal, elicited comparisons to the Brazilian men’s captain.
During the match, a few fans chanted "Marta is better than Neymar!" In the mixed zone an hour after the win, Marta was asked if she’s better than Neymar.
"Marta is Marta, Neymar is Neymar," Marta replied. She was clearly unhappy with the question and quickly moved away from the reporter.
Marta has been compared to soccer legend Pelé throughout her entire career, and grabbing a new comparison to a man — Neymar — seems to bother her. SB Nation asked Marta if a gold medal in Rio would finally stop the comparisons and help elevate women’s soccer in Brazil.
"I can’t predict the future," she said. "I have to live my life day-to-day and try my best on the field with my team to get victories. I don’t know what’s going to happen if we win the gold medal. We want the gold medal for ourselves, for our careers, for women’s soccer."
Marta didn’t score any of the three goals in Wednesday’s win over China — Monica, Andressa and Cristiane did — and she believes that’s a positive result of the evolution of the sport.
"I think it’s important that the girls that already competed at the Olympics can help other athletes, and show that everybody is important for the group, instead of one or other athlete making things happen," Marta said. "We’re doing work so the team doesn’t depend on this or that athlete. If everybody is well prepared and motivated, things will happen. You can’t give 100 percent of the credit to one athlete and forget the others. Everybody is important."
Brazil vs. China drew almost 30,000 fans at Olympic Stadium -- a solid attendance number, considering that the match took place at 4 p.m. local time on a regular Wednesday. Competing in her home country for the first time in a long time, Marta sees women’s soccer at a different level today.
"It’s way bigger now," she said. "A lot has to happen and evolve and we know that, but the support is way bigger now compared to when I started playing."
With more impressive performances like Wednesday’s, the Brazil women’s national team and Marta might gain enough respect to stand on their own and stop being compared to the men.