Sissi: The Brazilian who defied a dictatorship to become a World Cup great

    Sissi was joint-top scorer at the 1999 Women's World Cup

    (CNN)The rebellious often change the world. Defiant, unwavering, they are the sort who don't give up. They break with the norm and leave their mark on history, inspiring and clearing the path for the generations that follow.

    When Sisleide do Amor Lima would join the boys in her neighborhood for a kickabout on the streets, even aged six she knew it was illegal for females to play football. But she did not care.
    Sometimes her mother would drag her away by the ear, reminding her single-minded daughter that there was no future in Brazil for girls who wanted to play the beautiful game. That's just the way things were.
      "I'm going to prove you wrong," Sissi, as she would more affectionately become known to the world, would boldly retort during the long march home, the boys continuing to play on in the background. "I'm going to play for the national team."

        There were times I had to pretend to be a boy. I knew there was a law, that we had a President who said girls shouldn't be playing soccer. I ignored it.

        Sissi
        But, at the time, there was no Brazilian national football team for women. In 1941, as women's football was growing in popularity, the Brazilian government pushed through a decree that said females "will not be allowed to practice sports incompatible with the conditions of their nature." It meant women were banned from playing football, rugby, water polo and various track and field events. Brazil's military dictatorship would affirm the ruling when it came into power over two decades later.
        Under such circumstances, it was perhaps understandable that Sissi's father dreamed only for his son, Paulo, to become a professional footballer. With misogyny as much a fabric of Brazilian society as football, how could he have contemplated that it would be his daughter who would become one of the greats of the game?
        The young Sissi would watch father and son kicking the ball back and forth on the dusty streets, pretending to score goals for their beloved Brazil. It was here, "in the middle of the jungle" as she describes her hometown, observing the father she loved to impress, that the beautiful game captured her heart.
          Football's virtue is that it can be played anywhere, and not necessarily with a ball.
          While in the 16th century the English would kick around an inflated pig's bladder, a six-year-old Sissi used a doll's head. So good did she become, fights would break out between boys over whose team she could play for.
          "The boys accepted me," Sissi, speaking from her Californian home, tells CNN Sport.
          "There were times I had to pretend to be a boy. I knew there was a law, that we had a President who said girls shouldn't be playing soccer. I ignored it.
          "I was in the middle of nowhere -- who's going to know I was playing soccer with a bunch of boys? There were times I got into a lot of trouble. The parents were like 'what is she doing?' but I didn't care."