Amateur football gets boost to further inclusion in Brazil

An amateur football cup will kick-off next April (26) in Campo Grande, the capital and largest city of Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, to mobilise the city's population around football and showcase its contributions for inclusion and union.

Campo Grande mayor Gilmar Olarte said: "Football is our number one sport and because of this we had been envisaging a tournament involving the city's neighbourhoods for quite some time.

"This will bring back the good old days of amateur football that gave Brazil so many football stars".

A total of 33 teams will contest the cup in 18 pitches spread across different neighbourhoods of Campo Grande. Eight matches will be played every weekend in four of these pitches.

"I believe this cup, which brings together different neighbourhoods, is a great example for the rest of Brazil. " said the Brazilian Minister of Sport George Hilton, on Wednesday 31 March, at the launching event. At the event, State governor Reinaldo Azambuja highlighted: "We are proud partners of initiatives of this kind that promote diversity and stimulate the practice of football and links between neighbourhoods.

"This is what inclusion looks like, it is about creating opportunities for youngsters in a healthy environment and bridge gaps. It is about reaching those youngsters in more susceptible situations and keep them away from drugs and crime through sport."

As part of 2014 FIFA World Cup legacy and ahead of the 2016 Olympics the initiative is looking to expand to other cities of the Mato Grosso do Sul region.

Azambuja explained: "We are going to work towards expanding the initiative to other cities of the region to develop sport there and bring children, youngsters and people in general together to benefit from this great experience".

'Copa dos Bairros'
Similar initiatives have already been successfully implemented in other Brazilian cities. In Manaus (Amazonas) alone 144 teams participated in the 'Copa dos Barrios' (Neighbourhoods' Cup in English) in 2014.

Manaus council representative Elvys Damasceno said: "The Copa dos Bairros is a competition that encourages sport in the community. Even those who do not cheer for a team in specific engage in the matches played by their neighbourhood's team. It is also a great way to promote new players that do not have access or possibility to play in major football schools or leagues."

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