Ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the sporting programmes are looking to build a social legacy intended to continue after the end of the mega events.
The initiatives are also increasing access to different sports, by disadvantaged communities, and promoting equality, tolerance and inclusiveness.
Governmental programmes, such as the ‘Escolinhas Esportivas Educacionais’ (Socio-sports schools) in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, have made available a range of less popular sports free to disadvantaged children. These include karate, taekwondo and golf.
In addition, international sporting stars have visited some of these initiatives, often in the Brazilian slums locally known as ‘favelas’, and shown their support by giving workshops and lessons in their respective sports. The sporting stars include the US Olympic medallist Michael Phelps, the New Zealand rugby player Kieran Read and his fellow countryman and former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick.
“We are giving the underprivileged children that don’t get the opportunity to play sports, the chance to do it whether it will be rugby, cricket or football.” said Sean Fitzpatrick.
“If children enjoy it, it can change their lives by taking them out of the streets. Instead of doing naughty things, they’re doing good things,” he added.
A pool of future athletes
Using sport for inclusion is a common practice in the country that started when social problems such as the increase of the child mortality rate, violence and criminality, emerged in the Brazilian society. These programmes were intensified in the 80’s through the implementation of new public policies.
Recently, those programmes have increased in number by the forthcoming mega events.
Several of them are simultaneously being used to spot potential future athletes, mainly in the underprivileged communities.
Ygor Coelho from Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro, is an example of an athlete that started in a social-sport programme.
The 16 year-old represented Brazil last November in the Badminton Junior World Championships, in Thailand.
Similarly, Ediela Matos, 17, and Miriam Souza, 15, have both represented Brazil internationally. Their sporting career in canoeing started after they joined the project ‘Remando para a Cidadania’ (Paddling for Citizenship).
Wellington Aires, coordinator of the canoeing project said:
“As we start to work [with these children], being more involved and enjoying it, we start to dream bigger and that only brings good things. Their achievements and performances in events are one of them.”
In football, the ‘Guerreiras Project’ (The Warriors Project), funded by a group of former football players of the Brazilian women’s National Team, artists and academics, uses the game as a tool to discuss Human Rights and gender equality.
The initiatives ‘Construindo Pontes com o Futebol’ (Building Soccer Bridges), “Futebol Minas Pela Paz” (Football in Minas for Peace) and Paraesportes (Parasports) are a few other examples of programmes that use football for the inclusion of underprivileged children and people with disabilities.
“Blind people, people on wheelchairs, we all have abilities and the barriers we face are demotivating. We need these projects to feel included because we want to be included”, said Erik Pereira, a dumb player of the Paraesports project.