Marta Vieira da Silva
World-renowned Marta Vieira da Silva of Brazil, who is widely regarded as the best female soccer player of all time, recently solidified her dominance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup by becoming the first soccer player (male or female) to score at five different FIFA World Cups as well as the highest-scoring player (male or female) in FIFA World Cup history with 17 goals scored. She currently plays as a forward for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League and on the Brazilian national team. Between 2006 and 2018, she was named FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year six times.
Dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world, Vieira da Silva now inspires women and girls to follow their dreams as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport as well as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.
Born in Brazil in 1986 and growing up in a poor family, Vieira da Silva played street soccer without shoes and was often shunned by the boys she could outplay. Until 1979, it was against the law for women to play soccer in Brazil, leaving Vieira da Silva’s generation to challenge stereotypes and overcome barriers despite the change in law.
Forced to find somewhere else to play, she left her family at 14, taking a three-day bus trip to Rio de Janeiro to join her first club, Vasco de Gama. This bus journey would eventually lead her all over the world: to European championships, World Cups, and the Olympic Games to play in front of tens of thousands, and most importantly, to make the game available to girls in a way that it wasn’t made available to her.
In her own words, “All over the world, there are other girls who feel the same. Girls who get stares, girls who get asked why they’re out there, girls who get pulled from tournaments and called names. But that loneliness, it won’t last. And it won’t be long before you’re all playing together. My message to girls everywhere in this world: believe in yourself and trust yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”
The 2019 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award was presented with the Richard and Pamela Ader Foundation.