• Football - A universal language

    They say that sport brings the world together, and it certainly helps integrate street children into education and the open community.

    In Rio, and Brazil in general, football is a religion, and it truly unites the nation. With Hall of Fame legends like Pele, Romário, Zico and Ronaldo among their sporting greats, and five World Cups to their name, it’s no wonder the street kids want to emulate their heroes from such a young age and play for the likes of Fluminense and São Paulo.

    This morning’s project was a visit to a shelter for street children called Casa Jimmy. Located up on the hills in the favela of Santa Teresa, it isn’t a home for them to sleep in, simply a respite centre open three days a week. It's where the youngsters get food, a wash, clean clothes, some much needed TLC and also to take part in a range of educational activities.

    Today we were running football workshops. The moment you mention football you just watch their little faces light up.

    We were lead outside to a small patch of grass where we could do some drills. We asked whether or not we could use the big basketball court which was on their land. We were told no, as the fences were broken allowing several dangerous dogs access to the area and because of this it also needed to be cleaned up somewhat. Something which the project couldn't afford to do. Such a shame, considering this space was theirs.

    Despite our tiny token pitch and inflatable goal posts we'd packed in our luggage, before we knew it the children were running around passing the ball and shooting for goal, celebrating when the ball went in the net as if we were highly paid footballers playing in a stadium.

    Many world footballing stars began on the streets, learning their skills and pitting them against each other as they dreamt of playing on the world stage.

    It is the love of the sport that unites everyone in Brazil, and the excitement of the upcoming world cup in 2014 – Brazil’s first hosting of the competition since 1950 – is building day-by-day. Who’s to say whether we met some of Rio’s future stars during our visit.

    As our time in Casa Jimmy came to a close, we were met with the biggest bunch of high fives and hugs from everybody. And, as we waved goodbye to the children, we were also waving goodbye to an unbelievable experience that – with the right level of funding – could be a pivotal part in providing a better way of life to these children as the world’s eyes turn to Rio for the next World Cup.

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