Taking it to the Street: World Cup to help children kicks off in Brazil

Brazil plays host to pioneering global tournament for ‘street kids’

Rio de Janeiro

While Brazil and Fifa continue to fret over late stadiums and spiralling World Cup costs, another kind of football tournament, far removed from the sleek corporate world of Sepp Blatter and Co, kicks off in Rio de Janeiro this Sunday.

The Street Child World Cup brings together teams of young people from a variety of countries, ranging from the desperately poor (Burundi and Liberia) to the comparatively wealthy (the UK and US), to raise awareness of the plight of the millions of children across the world who are forced to sleep rough every night. All the players taking part have spent at least some of their lives living on the streets.

The aim of the event, which features a girls and a boys tournament and is supported by football greats such as Pele, David Beckham and Gary Lineker, is encapsulated by its slogan “I Am Somebody”. The idea behind the project is to give the children a voice and allow them to speak for themselves about the issues that affect their lives.

“One of the biggest challenges these children face is the stigma that goes with living on the streets. They are treated as subhuman, as outcasts from society,” explains Joe Hewitt, head of SCWC’s Brazil office. “One of our key aims is to challenge the negative perceptions and treatment of these kids, to give them a platform to be seen as children.”

The location of this year’s Street Child World Cup gives the event added relevance. Despite considerable progress having been made in recent years, millions of Brazilians still live below the poverty line, and the basic social infrastructure is frequently inadequate. There have been few World Cups where the wisdom of spending large amounts of public money on football stadiums has been so bitterly debated.

In a country notorious for its social inequality,  there can be no starker example of the problems that the SCWC hopes to highlight than the tragic death of a member of the Brazil team last month.

“It sounds like something from a film script, but Rodrigo Kelton really was our best player,” says Manoel Torquato, a coordinator at O Pequeno Nazareno, the care home and support centre that is home to Team Brazil. “We hired a professional coach to train the players for the World Cup, and he said that Rodrigo could have had a real future in the game.”

No longer. On 13 February, 14-year-old Rodrigo was shot and killed by drug traffickers near his family home in Fortaleza, a World Cup host city and one of the biggest urban centres in the north-east of Brazil, the country’s poorest region. His murder was allegedly punishment for a robbery that he committed a number of years before, and ironically came at a time when Rodrigo had stopped using drugs and was instead dedicating his time to playing football at O Pequeno Nazareno.

Rodrigo had drifted on to the streets when his parents’ own drug addiction made remaining at home difficult. It is one of a number of reasons why Brazilian children end up in such situations, according to Torquato. “Many come from poor families where the mother sends them out to beg, and if they don’t come home with enough money, they get beaten. So instead of going home they spend the night on the streets. Or perhaps they get caught stealing money, or shoplifting, so they can buy marijuana. The kids say there are illegal death squads of retired or moonlighting cops operating in the city. So they run away because they’re scared.”

To raise awareness of such issues, the Street Child World Cup organisers plan to join forces with other Brazilian pressure groups for an event at Candelaria Cathedral in Rio de Janeiro, where eight young homeless people were murdered by the police in 1993.

The remaining members of Team Brazil will not forget Rodrigo. But nor can they contain their excitement about the prospect of playing in the Street Child World Cup. “I don’t think they’ve slept since they heard the news that they’re going to Rio. Most of them have never left Fortaleza, let alone the state,” says Torquato.

He, and the SCWC organisers, hope that the global influence of football can make a difference to the lives of these boys and girls. 

“Football is everything here,” Torquato says. “When we go out into the streets to talk to the homeless children, we take an album of photos of our centre with us. The photos that they get most excited about are the ones of the food in the kitchen, and the ones of the boys playing football.”

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices