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For decades, women’s football was banned in Brazil. Now ex-drug traffickers are tackling prejudice in the game by training future soccer stars from the favelas
Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:
ridden: excessively full
stray: not in the right place; separated from the group or target
dodge: avoid (someone or something) by a sudden quick movement
impoverish: make (a person or area) poor
shootouts: a decisive gun battle
lack: the state of being without or not having enough of something
council estate: area of houses built and rented out to tenants by a local council
to cope: (of a person) deal effectively with something difficult
The Astroturf on the football pitch in Rio de Janeiro’s Penha favela complex is torn and covered with litter, while graffiti on the bullet-ridden walls vows “death to the police”.
“Stray bullets are part of my life here,” says Jessica, a 17-year-old football coach. “Sometimes you have to jump into a house to dodge them.”
The conditions for the girls playing football in this favela in northern Rio could not be more different to those facing Brazil’s national men’s team. Yet the coaching that goes on here is perhaps just as important for Brazil’s future generations. Favela Street, is a project that trains ex-drug traffickers to coach football to youngsters at risk from the drugs trade.
There is a high risk for some girls who grow up in impoverished favelas and see joining the drugs trade or becoming the girlfriend of a drug dealer as the only way to earn money or prestige in communities where educational provision is often erratic or interrupted by shootouts.
Jessica started living on the streets after receiving death threats from the drug traffickers she worked for. She returned to Penha only after the Ibiss foundation, the non-profit organisation that funds the Favela Street soccer schools among other projects, negotiated her return with the drugs lords.
Despite the national passion for football and success of the men’s team, the women’s game has been slow to establish itself in Brazil. Between 1941 and 1979, a law – originally imposed by the then-ruling military dictator – prohibited girls and women from playing football as it was considered “incompatible with the female form”. Women’s teams have lacked sponsorship, support and media attention.
However, Favela Street is helping to change perceptions about the young women involved, as well as building up their self-esteem.
Arsenal and England footballer Alex Scott was invited to visit the Brazilian girls’ team in Rio. It is a long way from Penha to east London, where Scott grew up, but for girls in the favelas and those from Scott’s council estate, similar experiences could still be shared. “I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t got into football,” says Scott. Being picked up by Arsenal aged eight gave her a lifelong sense of direction and confidence.
Whether in London or in Rio, the Arsenal defender believes the sport can offer ways to cope with living in tough urban environments. “Football helps you because you have to learn how to channel your aggression. If you let it overwhelm you, you risk letting down the whole team. Developing that discipline helps you in the rest of your life.”
“Let’s chat about that!”
Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Give reasons for your answers. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂
- How do you think football can help these girls from the favelas?
- Do you really believe they have a chance to better their lives?
- What emotions do you think these girls feel everyday?
- Do you know any inspirational story about a woman from very humble beginnings who became highly successful?
- Are women’s sports well supported in your country?
World football in match fixing scandal
Players and officials accused in Europol investigation
Look at this vocabulary first:
nearly / almost: very close to
to fix: to organise or influence the final result
betting: to place money on a possible result
a level playing field: correct conditions for a fair competition
cheat: a person who breaks the rules
to beat: to win against somebody / to defeat
tax return: your financial declaration to the state
uneven: not equal or level
This week Europol, the European anti-crime agency, revealed that it is investigating suspicious results in nearly 700 football matches between 2008 and 2011.
They included games from almost all competitions including the Word Cup, the European Championship, the Champions League and several national leagues. Investigators said about 380 were played in Europe, and a further 300 were identified in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
These matches were allegedly fixed as part of a global betting syndicate based in Singapore. Europol didn’t name any of the teams, players or officials involved because investigations are still continuing. However they they did mention some countries where these games were played including Germany and Great Britain.
Spain was not mentioned, but the country’s professional league recognised that the problem does in fact exist there. “Here the illness is not admitted, but Spanish football suffers from match-fixing, illegal betting and cheats,” stated Javier Tebas, vice president of the country’s professional league (LFP).
Football fans in Spain are becoming increasingly angry about the state of their domestic league competition. Every year newspapers have stories about ‘maletines’ (briefcases).
The act of one team passing bags of money to players of a third team to ‘encourage’ them to play better and therefore beat direct rivals is a common and accepted practice, and questions are never asked about where this money comes from or if it is ever declared in players’ tax returns.
More recently the uneven distribution of TV money has been debated. Just two teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid, receive more than half of the €600 million the league obtains from TV contracts. The smaller teams have to sell their best players to the big two clubs just to balance the books and stay out of administration.
It seems it is difficult to find ‘a level playing field’ in sport anywhere today.
Something to chat about:
Do you bet on sporting events?
What sporting events do people typically bet on where you live?
Do you think some players take bribes in your favourite sport?
Should betting be banned?
Is their too much money in some professional sports?