Brazil vs Chile World Cup 2014: Favela is gripped to the very end

Feared for their crime and violence, the slums also have a welcome, homely side, as our reporter found when Pau Comeu watched Brazil play

The screams of “Brazil” and “Chupa Chile,” (Chile sucks) that greet the final whistle can barely be heard amid the ear splitting fireworks echoing around the Pau Comeu favela.

Locals who are gathered around television sets placed along its narrow lanes hug each other and break into song, waving Brazil flags. Outside the Bar Ze O Mais Amigo, the Bar of the Best Friend, bottles of beer are cracked open as the clientele  exchange high fives.

Everywhere is a sea of yellow and green and for the residents of this favela, located on a hilltop overlooking Belo Horizonte, the party is  only just beginning as the televisions are turned off and sound systems turned on, pumping out samba  and funk.

“Favela parties are very famous and happen all the time,” admitted Robert Cecilio, a lifelong resident of Pau Comeu. “We love to sing and dance but obviously this is extra special because of the World Cup.”

One of the largest and most boisterious crowds has gathered for a barbecue outside the home of Robert’s cousin Goya. Three different kinds of meats are cooking as she barks orders for more beer to be served while passing around a cap, asking for financial contributions for the food and drink.

Thrusting a plate filled with beans, rice and chicken into my hand, Goya introduces me to the guests, most of them her relatives who all greet me with warm embraces and smiles. “Now you see what favela people are really like, gringo,” she jokes.

Pau Comeu is a place that few Brazilians or those visiting the country for the World Cup will get to see. Like many other favelas located around Brazil’s major cities, it is considered a no-go area.

Fortunately I have Robert with me, a third-generation-born favelado (favela resident) who is my guide and virtually knows every single one of its 10,000 residents.

Pau Comeu, literally translated, means “wood eaters”, a Brazilian term used to describe fighting.

“There was a time when this was the most dangerous favela in Belo Horizonte,” said Robert. “They said that we killed two people with one bullet. That’s how this favela got its name. People are still scared of us but things are not as bad as they were.”

As I am led in and out of the one-room brick houses that make up most of the favela, receiving hugs and constantly being asked why England played so badly at the World Cup, it is hard to believe Pau Comeu’s reputation and that of Belo Horizonte as a whole. With a population of five million and a murder rate of 29 per 100,000 residents, it is officially the 48th most dangerous city in the world.

Robert works as a woodwork teacher in a school located “fora”, as he calls it, meaning beyond the favela. This is a term commonly used in Pau Comeu to refer to mainstream Brazilian society, something residents claim that they do not feel part of.

“I never tell people on the outside that I live in a favela, not even the people I work with,” admitted Robert. “The rest of Brazilian society has a very bad impression of us. They think we are all criminals and drug dealers. but we are just like ordinary people who want to work hard and have good lives.”

Behind the World Cup decorations and camaraderie, however, the darker side of Pau Comeu is not far away. Robert leads me past a group of young men standing soldier-like along a lane overlooking the favela and whispers that I should not speak to or photograph them. He tells me  that they are “Joninha’s boys”,  Joninha being the local drug lord who is currently in prison but still in control.

“They are crack dealers and  addicts” he adds. “The biggest problem that we have in this favela is with crack. It is ruining our community and killing our youngsters. But they never commit any crime in the favela, just outside.”

As we speak, a dishevelled woman who steals clothes from Belo Horizonte’s shopping malls to fund her crack habit offers us some Brazil football shirts for sale, which have proved popular with locals over the past few weeks.

While some favelas in cities like Rio de Janiero have undergone what Brazilian authorities call “pacification” in the run-up to the World Cup, with criminals and drug dealers forced out as the police move in, such measures have not been enforced in Pau Comeu, much to the relief of residents.

Robert’s friend Frankie said: “The police are more dangerous than the drug dealers or the bandits. When they do come into the favela they break down our doors and beat us. They are the ones we need protection from.”

The one thing that Pau Comeu’s residents have in common with the rest of Brazilian society is their  attitude toward the World Cup. When their country is playing, they passionately get behind it but few believe that the tournament has been money well spent.

“Health, education, sanitation, drug-rehabilitation programmes, these are the things that the government should be funding not football,” said Robert. “But when Brazil play we back them 100 per cent because we love football and our country.”

For now, the favela’s problems and the arguments surrounding the World Cup are put to one side. Brazil are a step closer to winning the World Cup and Pau Comeu is celebrating, even if their nerves are feeling somewhat shredded after a after that dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living