Brazil football: Death of a street child

Leave a comment

The brutal killing of a promising teenage street footballer has concentrated minds in Brazil ahead of the World Cup this summer.

“Rodrigo was nurturing the dream of being a professional footballer. He had been born with a real talent and everyone in his family and his community knew that he was really good at football.”

The teenage boy described by outreach worker Antonio Carlos da Silva could be any of Brazil’s football-mad youngsters.

But Rodrigo Kelton had not just stood out in training sessions. At only 14, he had already overcome great odds to make it to that age alive.

Rodrigo was one of the thousands of children born into hardship in the north-eastern state of Ceara, where according to official figures more than 133,000 people live on less than 70 reais ($30; £18.50) a month.

Perilous existences

Born into deep poverty and drug addiction, Rodrigo was driven by severe social problems into a perilous existence on the streets of the state capital, Fortaleza.

But according to Mr Silva, the outreach worker who first met Rodrigo living on the streets and persuaded him to move into a shelter in 2009, he was on the brink of turning his life around.

“He was hoping to turn professional, so that he could help his mother get treatment for her drug addiction and buy her a house,” Mr Silva recalls.

Part of what helped him was being part of the Brazilian team competing in the Street Child World Cup, a global tournament that puts the spotlight on issues affecting street children.

The tournament currently under way in Rio is the second such event to be held uniting teams of street children from 19 countries, four years after the inaugural competition in Durban.

Bernardo Rosemeyer is the founder of O Pequeno Nazareno, a non-governmental organisation which runs the shelter into which Rodrigo moved aged nine. He says the prospect of competing in the Street Child World Cup instilled discipline in Rodrigo’s life.

“He had stopped taking drugs and was going to school as part of the conditions to play in the tournament,” Mr Rosemeyer explains. “Being in the team was a light in his life. He was even getting on better with his mother who came to all the training sessions.”

Bitter reality

But what happened to Team Brazil’s best striker shortly before he was due to take part in the Cup reflects the bitter reality of children at the bottom of Brazil’s society.

Rodrigo left the shelter and moved back with his family in a dangerous part of Fortaleza

In February, Rodrigo decided to move back to the favela, or shanty town, where his family lived.

He liked a girl there and dismissed warnings by social workers about the risks of returning to the dangerous neighbourhood.

As he left his home on the day of his 14th birthday with his older brother Raphael, the brothers were shot at by members of a drug gang in retaliation for an alleged robbery several years before.

Rodrigo was killed and Raphael only survived because the gun had jammed.

The news hit his team mates hard.

230 former street children from 19 countries gathered at the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue

“I told the players about his death when we all met up to take the bus to the training session,” recalls Mr Silva.

“At first, they did not believe me and thought I was lying. Then they all began to cry and to think about their strategies for survival in the communities where they live.”

At Rodrigo’s funeral, it was his team mates who carried his coffin.

On the day before their first match, they gathered in a small chapel to remember the teenager who could not make the journey with them from the streets of Fortaleza to Rio to represent their country.

Goalkeeper Pedro Levi, a 15-year-old who also lived on the streets of Fortaleza before moving into a shelter, says Rodrigo has left a gaping hole in the team: “He was a great player. The best thing about him was his leadership, he would bring the whole team together.

Pedro says the team is determined to bring the trophy home “for Rodrigo”.


Before their first match against Egypt, the players observed a minute’s silence in Rodrigo’s honour. Team mate Diego Rocha, 14, held a portrait of Rodrigo as Rio’s Archbishop, Dom Orani Tempesta, and a former captain of Brazil’s national team, Gilberto Silva, watched.

Rodrigo’s team went on to beat Egypt 4-0. But their victory felt bittersweet. “We dedicate this match to the memory of Rodrigo,” Diego said.

The team is determined that Rodrigo will not be forgotten and plan to keep displaying his portrait as they progress through the tournament to Sunday’s final.

But the reality for Brazil’s 23,000 street children is anything but rosy. Gang and drug violence remain endemic in poor communities.

In Rodrigo’s home state of Ceara alone, there were 4,462 murders in 2013.

Murders of street children routinely go unpunished and there has been no investigation into Rodrigo’s death.

Team mate Vinicius Marcos, 14, knows any of the 300 children believed to live on the streets of Fortaleza could easily run the same fate as Rodrigo.

So his hope for his former team mate is a simple one: “I hope God has him in a good place.”




Aaron Hunt: Werder Bremen captain denies own team penalty

Werder Bremen captain Aaron Hunt denied his own team a penalty against German rivals Nuremberg – by admitting to the referee that he had not been fouled.

Hunt tumbled under a challenge from home defender Javier Pinola as Werder led 2-0 in Saturday’s Bundesliga clash.

Referee Manuel Graefe pointed to the spot before the midfielder asked him to reverse the 75th-minute decision.

“Out of instinct, I wanted to provoke the penalty, but that was wrong,” Hunt, 27, told German media afterwards.

Graefe awarded a drop-ball instead before 11th-placed Werder, who are now eight points above the relegation zone, saw out the 2-0 win.

“I struggled with myself a bit (to say something), but we don’t want to win any games like that, even if we are in a relegation battle,” added Germany international Hunt, who has an English mother.

His actions also drew praise from Argentine left-back Pinola. “I take my hat off to him,” he said.

Maracanã – Brazil’s Flagship


‘Problems’ as Maracana stadium reopens in Rio

Venue organisers tried to show the renovated stadium in its best light, but Brazilian media said there were many problems with the venue

Rio’s world-famous Maracana stadium has reopened after nearly three years of renovations to prepare it for the World Cup finals in 2014.

Workers who helped with the renovation and their families were treated to an exhibition match between teams of stars past and present.

But leading newspapers reported problems with the new facility.

The reopening follows controversy over delays, costs and the future privatisation of the site.

The renovation was completed four months behind schedule.

Days before the test event, seats were still being installed and pavements laid near the venue.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes were among the 30,000-strong crowd watching the friendly between teams captained by Ronaldo and Bebeto.

But the Jornal do Brasil said Saturday’s visitors “needed patience to deal with the many problems” at the venue, arising from the rush to complete it.

It highlighted uneven flooring with small gaps and holes, flooding in the VIP area and a dysfunctional lift, and said some staff had tried to prevent journalists taking pictures of the affected areas.

Workers were still finishing building a stadium wall, and ticket offices, turnstiles and gates were not working, said another paper, the Folha de Sao Paulo.

International test

But in a statement quoted by the Folha de Sao Paulo, the Rio de Janeiro state government pointed out that this was a test event, using only 30% of the stadium’s full capacity, and did not represent the full reopening.

It said it was “natural” that some more work remained to be done.

“Maracana will be delivered fully ready on the date set by Fifa: 24 May,” it reportedly said.

Former Brazil star striker Ronaldo, who captained one team for the exhibition match against former teammate Bebeto, said the stadium looked “amazing”.

“I’m happy to see the stadium ready again. The Maracana is a symbol of this country,” he said, according to the Assoociated Press news agency.

Former Brazil coach and player Mario Zagallo said he had “goose-bumps” when he arrived, AP said.

The first major international test of the facility will be a friendly between Brazil and England on 2 June before the Confederations Cup begins two weeks later.

Read more

Read more


A Little Flag

Leave a comment

Yes, a little flag, uma bandeirinha.

How many countries have a bird that displays the colours of their national flag?


Bandeirinha, Chlorophonia cyanea

Brazil has one, yes, the bandeirinha, Chlorophonia cyanea.

You can see a wonderful collection of Brazilian bird photos here. They were taken at Itatiaia National Park in the highlands of Rio de Janeiro state, and all on the same day.

New species of Bandeirinha

Brazil also has another species of Bandeirinha, the new phenomenon of girl linesmen at football matches.

Their male counterparts are still called árbitros.

The use of the diminutive ‘little flags’ for the girls is a form of endearment, as you can see they deserve it.

%d bloggers like this: