In Brazil, turning dreams into reality is childs play

Sao Paulo | Updated: Jun 22 2014, 06:56am hrs
BrazilBrazilian children training in the industrial suburb of Sao Paulo
VALDIR Campos training regimen is unforgiving. At the ground of the fourth division team Centanario near Rua Pedro de Toledo in Sao Paulo, his young pupils, aged between eight and 12 years, are kicking and running hard under his watchful eyes. All the football paraphernalia are in place, from cones to drum up their dribbling to nearly two dozen balls to keep them busy with. After finishing the days training with a pep talk, Campos turns over the nine children, who are huddled around him, to the goal-keeping coach.

Training every day is important in a footballers life, whether a kid or a man, he says. Just like in the training ground of Campos in the industrial suburb of Sao Paulo which was the venue

for the opening match of the ongoing Fifa World Cup no talented child is left out in Brazils football programme.

In Brazil, football is a way of life. Training for the sport begins very early, includes all and is rigorous. Apparently, it is this investment in the people that has turned out to be the key to the countrys footballing success. In the run-up to the World Cup, the countrys showpiece event, a few days ago, Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo told this correspondent: Our football factory uses as raw material the dreams of millions of children, who hope to match their heroes one day. The Brazilian government runs programmes like the Segundo Tempo (Second Half) and Esporte e Lazer na Cidade (Sport and Leisure in the City) for children not studying in schools.

Football has come full circle in a country where the sport was originally brought for the recreation of its rich European settlers in the early 20th century. In the same way as the Afro-Asians dribbled their way into the pitch in the 1920s, ending elitism in Brazilian football and beginning an era of the beautiful game, people today want to use the game to end social inequalities.

The scattered protests surrounding the World Cup, the first after the 1950 event in which Brazil lost to Uruguay in the final at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, explain the deep links between society and football. In a show of support for their national team, yellow-and-green Brazilian flags fly atop cars and homes in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in southern Brazil, a region that is richer than its northern counterpart in the Amazon where many complain of the lack of facilities for education and health.

A graffiti covering the giant walls of the Centanario ground in Sao Paulo seems to sum up the values of Brazilian football. Twelve words in Portuguese stand out in the shades of colourful mermaids, anxious faces and towering buildings: esperanca (hope), educacao (education), transformacao (transformation), alegria (happiness), ordem (order), progresso (progress), honestidad (honesty), seguranca (security), saude (health), fe (faith), paz (peace) and amor (love). The words say a lot about the philosophy of Brazilian football that has transformed a society filled with many social inequalities, enabling even players from the favelas (slums) to rise to stardom.

But the first word on the graffiti, esperanca or hope, is high on the football ground as much as another, alegria or happiness.

The children need to become strong, says Campos, showing a heavy yellow ball, smaller than a football, which he uses to train their tiny bodies to become powerful. When they are strong, they will be happy on the ground, he adds. He doesnt have to say they will play well too. They are, after all, Brazilian footballers.

Faizal Khan

(Faizal Khan is a freelancer)