‘An inspiration’: How Marta’s engagement gave Brazilian LGBT community strength in fight against homophobia

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1/16/21

On 4 January, Brazil’s six-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta logged onto Instagram and posted three pictures of herself alongside her partner and Orlando Pride teammate Toni Deion Pressley, who was sporting a new ring. Underneath, Marta wrote: “This is another story of the chapter we are writing.” On her Instagram profile, Pressley posted the same pictures, with one word: “Yes.” The happy couple are to be married later this year. In Marta’s homeland the internet was immediately abuzz with the story, not only on sports sites and social media, but the websites of glossy mags and broadsheet newspapers. In Brazil, the rainha do futebol, or queen of football, is big news. The announcement goes beyond a nice, upbeat bit of gossip to punctuate the endless flow of horrendous news stories over the last 10 months, even if it was not treated accordingly in a large portion of the Brazilian media reports that followed it. Owing to her prominence and popularity among even casual football fans, Marta’s actions carry genuine social significance, especially for women and for Brazil’s marginalised LGBTQ+ community. Julia Santana, a 26-year-old lesbian from the city of Salvador who was recently elected as a council member of EC Bahia, a first division club that has forged a reputation as Brazil’s most open-minded and progressive, tells i: “Marta is a great idol in my life, a great inspiration.” Marta hails from a small town in Alagoas – the state with the lowest Human Development Index score in the country – in the arid north-east. At 14 she left home alone for Rio de Janeiro, facing a three-day bus ride to pursue her football career. For Santana, Marta is a shining example of what women like her can achieve. “I always played football and was the only girl among the boys,” she says. “Seeing an athlete with the immense influence she had was always a source of great pride. Because she was north-eastern, because she was a woman and because she was the best in the world for a long while.”

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