Men's vs. Women's technical ability
As I mentioned in my previous article, I was in the UK during the 2019 Women's World Cup pursuing another level of my football coaching education. Due to the unusual (hopefully our new standard) spotlight in the media, television and the increase of technology and online accessibility, there was a peak in the audience following the matches. Especially during the final game, U.S. vs. Holland, which had an increase of 402% from 2015 Women's World Cup, becoming the most-streamed women's final in history.
The more people watch the women's game, the more comparisons to the men's game there will be. There were two conversations during my time in the UK that stuck in my memory. Now that I am back in Brazil, it seems to be a topic worth more discussion. One man, who is very knowledgable, also with professional player experience and semi-pro coaching experience, told me that he thinks that if you get male players from the fourth-fifth division of England FA, those players will be better technically than the current England Women's National Team (which got to the semi-finals in the World Cup).
Me raising my eye-browns.
My next conversation was with another very knowledgable agent in England, who also has professional player experience. He argued with me that men are better technical players than women P-E-R-I-O-D.
Before I share with all of you two scenarios, it is important to remember that there is no biological difference that could make a woman less technical than a man AND most technical ability is developed during the early ages of players' career.
Let's compare Marta with Neymar.
I am not going to talk about the differences between goals scored for the National Team nor FIFA awards. I am comparing two very known players and two very technical players. I have worked with Cat Whitehill, a defender from the U.S. National Team for 10 years, who publicly said that Marta was absolutely the most difficult person to defend against. Neymar is also known for his magical moves and amazing ball control, causing embarrassment to many defenders around the world.
We should compare both of those players development phases by looking to see how both of them developed into the players they are today.
Neymar grew up in Mogi da Cruzes- SP, a city with over 400k citizens near one of the biggest cities in the world and one of the most influential football centers of Brazil, São Paulo/SP. Born and raised in Brazil, the single most successful football nation, Neymar had countless generations of world-known talents to look up to as his role model. Additionally, Neymar's dad, a former professional player in Brazil, became not only his footballer advisor but also a support system throughout his career who never left his side.
Marta was born in Dois Riachos, a municipality near Alagoas in the north of Brazil. The current population counts is a little over 11k citizens and the state of Alagoas has a little less than 10% of the population of the state of São Paulo. Living in a very poor community, Marta's dad left her mom and her 3 siblings when she was only 1 year old.
At age 11, Neymar's family moved to another city where he could start his career with Portuguesa Santista. In the same year, the whole family moved to the city of Santos where he joined the prestigious local club, Santos FC. With the success of his youth career, his family was able to buy a house right next to Santos FC stadium. Due to his success, at age 14, Neymar was offered a spot in the Real Madrid C.F. Academy, but decided to stay in Santos. At age 15, Neymar was earning R$10k per month and at age 16, he earned R$125,000 per month.
Marta, who only played among boys and at some point has starved due to her family's financial situation, had to overcome a vast amount of prejudice in a country where only men are supposed to play football. Growing up Marta had no role model, and she suffered constant discrimination trying to pursue her dream to become a football player. The first club she played for was over 200 km from her home, and at age 14 she moved to Rio de Janeiro by herself to play "professionally" for Vasco da Gama. I could not find how much money she made in Vasco, but I would guess she did not make more than R$1000 per month due to my personal experience playing in Brazil.
Santos FC is known to be one of the best clubs in the world. It is the home of players like Pele and Robinho. Known as the "fabric of making talents", it has one of the best and most technological training centers in South America. It provides everything a player needs in-and-out of the field. From football fields, hotel, gym, and school, to even a psychology center. The schedule of the school is set up according to the players' tournament schedule, and the staff also check players' attendance and progression, giving some value to education.
The conditions of school for Marta while playing for Vasco da Game is unknown.
Santos FC, for being a big influence in football, provided the best training through a very capable staff. It is not that difficult to understand that quality coaches develop the best players. Personal talent and players' personality do count for some of the performance. However, there is just much you can do without guidance. If a player doesn't have quality guidance, there is no progression.
While playing for Vasco da Game, Marta went through some internal transfers. At that moment in Brazil, women's football had no support whatsoever. Now, more than 15 years later, it is still hard to find quality coaches in the women's game; or coaches that can live only through the sport allowing them to study and have full focus on their career... imagine at that time?!
When Neymar was 13, Brazil started hearing about his abilities. People started talking about his creativity and how physically similar he was to Robinho. He was then in the spotlight for being, potentially, the next new talent for the Brazilian National Team. At age 17, Neymar made his professional debut making R$TOO-MUCH-MONEY and playing among older/experienced/high quality/successful players and coaches.
When Marta was 18, she moved to Sweden to play professionally. Although I was absolutely crazy about football, I did not hear about Marta until she won her first FIFA Best Women's Football Player in 2006 at age 20.
This is just a quick summary of their player development timeline.
Now let me ask: In general, men are more technical than women?
Do men (in general) get more and better exposure to everything than women? Do men have more opportunities to experience the game in a higher and better level than women? Do men have more structure, playing time, quality training, quality coaches than women?
Could all these correlate with the vast amount of highly technical players in the men's side?
Perhaps should we start making these comparisons, or have defined conclusion, when women are able to experience the same structure, support system, demographic competition, quality training staff, hours of training, amount of tournaments, money invested (not even the same, but just ENOUGH to survive) than men?