A distant Favela is splayed across a lush green landscape, alive with the soft rumble of traffic parallel to its make-shift wooden walls; marking an impoverished slum forgotten amongst the beauty and glamour of Rio de Janeiro’s sleek office blocks and shimmering ocean.
Rio is a place where the divide between the filthy rich and inexcusably poor is a five minute car journey along the Estr. Lagoa Barra, two completely different worlds divided by a 4 km span of tarmac stretching from the urbanized Shanties of Gavea and Rocinha to the spectacular recherché of tower blocks and luxury hotels that make up north Rio’s striking superiority over the neglected south.
It’s a remarkable injustice, but the Favela of Rocinha that shelves gently into the steep hillside typical of Rio’s Copacabana region has a basic infrastructure: and with that comes football. Here, the community spirit is touching and, despite the crime, allows for plenty of communal interaction. This usually takes the form of a football match, because here the beautiful game speaks louder than any words can. Patches of these poor areas are regularly transformed into urban football pitches and Futsal (indoor football with a heavier, smaller ball that improves control and ball skills) institutions.
The community invites the participation in football, especially at an early age. This for the first time has made me jealous of their lifestyle: our favorite Prime-Minister Tony Blair made a job of erecting signposts in public grass patches that sternly advise that the patch should remain ball free. In these Brazilian areas, signposts gently usher you in the direction of hundreds of Football and Futsal institutions. Hence, the talent of youngsters in Brazil is comparable to the greatest grape-vines in the south of France. They are matured early and allowed to develop the same seductive style of play that has made their nation world-renowned for the production of unrivalled quality.
This is why, over the past 50-odd years, Brazilian exports have taken the world by storm. Now, this common trend is showing little signs of waning, and with the likes of Rafael (Manchester United), Pato (AC Milan) and Denilson (Arsenal) being spotted by some of Europe’s top scouts, the Brazilian FA can sleep easy for the next decade. Ever since the likes of Pele, Jairzinho, Garrincha, Carlos Alberto, Zico, Leonardo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo showered us with generations of flamboyant, electrifying pieces of individualism and aesthetical charm, we have become accustomed to the Brazilian’s ethos- ‘Joga Bonito’ translated into ‘Play Beautiful’- that stems back to these poor slums made of concrete and rotting wood.
A game which is being whisked away by waters heading towards a financial revolution should respect these unsung heroes of our game- the Favelas of Brazil operating successfully under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer.