As the list of names being suggested as possible replacements for FIFA President Sepp Blatter grows, one theme is evident. All the prospective candidates are men.
According to record five-time FIFA Female Player of the Year Marta, there’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t take the post for the first time since soccer’s governing body was established in 1904.
“Independent to a man or woman it’s about capacity,” Marta said in a phone interview Wednesday from Sao Paulo’s international airport, where she was en route to Canada for this month’s Women’s World Cup. “You need to have the knowledge of what needs to be done to improve the sport, so I have a preference for capability independent of whether it’s a man or woman.”
Bookmakers have made European soccer head Michel Platini and Blatter’s election opponent Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan favorites. Others to have declared interest include FIFA’s Honorary Vice President Chung Mong-joon of Korea and Brazil’s 1986 World Cup playmaker Zico.
Marta was selected as FIFA World Player of the Year every year from 2006-10. The Brazilian was voted the best player at the 2007 World Cup in China and scored the most goals at the tournament, when Brazil lost 2-0 to Germany in the final.
The Women’s World Cup kicks off Saturday in Edmonton with the sport reeling from the arrests last week of key FIFA executives in a Swiss hotel as part of a U.S. investigation into more than two decades of alleged corruption. On Tuesday, Blatter said he will step down, four days after being re-elected to a fifth term as president.
Blatter recently described himself as the “godfather” of the women’s game. In 2013 at FIFA’s congress in Mauritius, Blatter caused offense when announcing the addition of the first woman to the governing body’s executive committee, Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera, the highest-ranking woman in the sport.
“Any ladies in this room?” he said. “Say something ladies. You are always speaking at home. Now you can speak here.”
Marta said her success didn’t earn her much contact with the FIFA president.
“People from women’s football don’t have much access to people in this environment,” she said. “We see them in the competitions from time to time.”
The U.S. Department of Justice last week indicted 14 FIFA officials and sports-marketing executives with charges including accepting more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks over more than two decades.
Marta said she was saddened by the breach of trust shown by officials who enriched themselves at the expense of the game.
“We need to find responsible people to correct the errors so football can continue to be a passion for people all around the world,” she said.
Marta criticized a lack of funding for the women’s game in Brazil, which has won more men’s World Cups than any other nation. She has spent a significant portion of her career overseas and currently plays in Sweden.
“They give 90 percent of the money for men football’s, leaving very little for women,” she said. “They must show more love for women’s football.”