In 2014, Their Beautiful Game travelled to Brazil to undertake some work in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro. Once again, we were inspired by the people we met and their stories of the conditions they live and work in whilst trying to provide positive outcomes for the disadvantaged in their communities. We spent time working in the Penha and Julio Otuni favelas with in-country organisations who run football programs for the kids who live there. The majority of children they work with are either victims of child prostitution, or ex drug traffickers or gang members, some under the age of 10.
Thais Corral runs a children’s community centre with the walls of Julio Otuni and told us how she was approached by families in the favela asking her to help their children steer away from crime. Thais lives on a street just outside Julio Otuni, but agreed to buy a few houses that were next to each other inside the favela that could then be transformed into an area for children to meet, read, draw, learn how to use a computer or camera and play sport. To most this would seem a noble thing to do – but for the drug cartel who operated from inside Julio Otuni this represented an unnecessary problem. Thais told us how she was held up at gun point on several occasions and threatened with her life if she didn’t return the buildings to their original purpose as a stash house, and the kids she worked with to their “employers.” However, despite being no more than 5ft tall, Thais is perhaps one of the scariest women we’ve met! She refused to back down or be intimidated by the drug cartel, has the support of the community and the drop in centre is open for the kids of Julio Otuni favela 7 days a week, with teaching staff on hand to provide education across the arts and sport. We were more than happy to donate a range of football equipment and look forward to our return in the future!