I was not his son.
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
The story of Sissi, the legend of Brazil and the World:
My dad wanted my brother to be a professional soccer player
"I was born in a small town in the north of Brazil called Esplanada, BH. My passion for soccer started when I was very young watching my dad and my brother playing in the backyard. Unfortunately, they did not allow me to join them. In Brazil, girls were not allowed to play. 'They' said girls cannot play the sport that was made for men. I remember my dad arguing with me a lot because of that. And I felt I needed to do something about it.
I knew I was born to play soccer.
At that point, I decided to use my doll's head as my soccer ball if that’s the only way I could play! My mom went nuts. She thought I was crazy! In addition, my dad's dream was for my brother to become a professional soccer player. Sadly,
I was not his son.
For years, I was not allowed to play, but I knew I had a special gift. My brother did not show that much interest in becoming a professional soccer player and at some point my dad started to watch me play. At that point, I did not have any support, and he realized I was very talented. My dad finally decided to give me my first soccer ball!
That was the best day of my life.
It was a small victory, but the war was definitely not over. I grew up in a very small town, and people would call me names and say a lot of things that you should not say to a little girl. Many parents in my town would complain to my mom and would ask her how she could allow me to play with all the boys in the streets. For them seeing a girl playing soccer was not normal.
Somehow none of these comments made me think twice about playing soccer.
I knew exactly what I wanted, and nothing would stop me. When I was 14, I had the chance to play for a professional team in a bigger city near mine. I left my home, but promised my parents that I would finish high school while pursuing my dream to play for my country.
When I was 17, I got invited to play for the first Brazilian Women's National Team. In1988, we had the privilege to play in the first Women's World Cup (called FIFA Women's Invitational Tournament) in China. We placed third...
...In that moment, everything made sense.
It made me think when I was 7 years old playing with my doll's head and everything I had to go through to stand in that podium. I could not imagine my life without soccer".
Sissi, or Sisleide Lima do Amor, played for Brazilian National Team for 17 years year. She played in three FIFA World Cups in 1988, 1995, and 1999. The World Cup in 1999, she scored one of the most beautiful goals in a World Cup against Nigeria, giving her the Adidas Golden Boot (which she shared with Sun Wen) and the Silver Ball, besides the bronze medal in the World Cup. Sissi also played in two Olympics, in 1996 and 2000. One year after her last Olympics at age 32, she got invited to play in the United States in the first women's professional soccer league. She signed her contract with San Jose CyberRays, where she played 3 years with U.S. National Team star Brandi Chastain.
In that same year, 2001, one of the most important and richest Brazilian sports bodies (Sao Paulo Futebol Federation), decided to promote a female championship. "The new era" only admitted girls within the "normative femininity" patterns (Knijnik, J. 2014). The rules only accepted what they called beautiful young girls, no older than 23, with long blonde hair. Girls with short or shaved hair would not be able to play in this tournament. See below the picture of the Brazilian National Team, who got 4th place in Olympics in Sydney in 2000, one year before this tournament.
Do you see the problem?
"I suffered a lot of prejudice in Brazil. First because I was playing soccer in a country that girls could not play. Second because I had short hair. When the Sao Paulo Futebol Federation prohibited girls with short hair to play, I could not help to think ' What the %$^&'... That was infuriating.
During that same year, my manager from San Jose CyberRays asked me to visit a boy in his school. This boy had cancer and was being bullied for having a shaved head.
That moment and that boy really impacted my life.
It was a very powerful experience and it really touched me. Several months later, this boy passed away. When I got the news, I was in Brazil during my vacation. I always had short hair, but to honor him
I decided to shave my hair.
People in Brazil were not aware of this story. After I was in the media with a shaved head, there were a lot comments about my sexuality and my personal life. It was completely unnecessary... I was wondering why do we have to go through this?!"
Besides San Jose CyberRays, Sissi played for California Storm and FC Gold Pride. Right now, at 50 years old, she still plays for a semi pro soccer team. She has coaching experience in professionally, collegiately, and at the youth level. She is currently the Technical Director and U11 head coach for Walnut Creek Soccer Club in California.
At the end of our conversation, she said that as player she was extremely welcomed in the U.S. She was impressed with the amount of support and help she received as a foreign player. Even though she is an extremely positive person, as a coach she mentioned she was constantly questioning her abilities. It amazes me how she kept saying "I am still learning... I am still learning". She is such an example of humility and determination.
I grew up hearing about Sissi and when I walked into the Brazilian National Team facility where all the pictures of the National teams were hanged she was always there with a huge smile. Sissi do Amor is one of the best soccer players in the history, and it is a honor to share a little bit of her story here.
Sissi, I am extremely happy to know that you are still there, sharing and fighting for your passion about the game to young girls.