A Different Side of Brazil
CAC volunteer Ariana Ruela talks about her return to Brazil with CAC one year after the World Cup
June 27th 2015. It was only a year ago that I arrived in Brazil for the first time, on my own, to watch the biggest tournament of futebol in the world—the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Speaking Portuguese (half of my family are from and still reside in Portugal), I quickly found my way around exploring three different cities, attending Portugal’s group matches, making new friends, and spending my afternoons finding peladas, Portuguese for small sided soccer games, that I could join in on. One thing was for sure: futebol in Brazil is a way of life. They live it, breathe it, eat and sleep thinking and dreaming about it.
However, during that time, what I didn’t get to see was the reality of everyday life here in Brazil. A little over 6 months after my adventure for the World Cup, I received the opportunity to return to Brazil with the awesome organization, Coaches Across Continents (CAC), where the power of futebol is used for social impact. This wasn’t just any opportunity for me. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to do something I have dreamed about. You might wonder why? A huge futebol player and lover of the game, I currently just finished my Masters in Global Affairs. Additionally, I have been coaching since I was 14 for various clubs in NJ, VA, as well as for NY Red Bulls Training Programs. As you can imagine, futebol is a way of life for me as well. What better way to fuse my studies in human rights and development with my passion and knowledge for the game of futebol?? And on top of that to do it in the beautiful Brazil where futebol is exactly that—the way of life.
Since arriving in Brazil, it has been amazing to work with the coaches, educators, and mentors here in this country. My first week in Rio de Janeiro was very insightful and inspiring as Niki talked about in her blog last week. One minute it was Monday and before you knew it, Saturday had already arrived and it was time to leave the beautiful beaches and people we had met and worked with in Rio to head to our next city. A 7 hour bus ride later, we arrived in Sao Paulo where we would stay for two weeks. Instantaneously, I discovered Sao Paulo was very different from Rio. With beaches an hour away unlike Rio, my first impression of Sao Paulo was bigness and city-like, sky rises and smog.
I quickly learned that Sao Paulo is a city where you get all four seasons in one day. When we wake up it is sunny and warm, by the time the afternoon rolls in it is cloudy and drizzling, and by night time you are shivering wondering why the heck you didn’t bring pants to Brazil. With that said, before you knew it, it was Monday again and time to meet a new group of coaches, educators and mentors that we would work with for the first week in Sao Paulo along with Futebol Social. These new participants brought a lot of energy to the sessions, were eager to learn, and quickly grasped what CAC is all about. Sessions were fun, insightful, and informing. It wasn’t long before we started learning about the problems and issues the coaches and mentors try and tackle day in and day out in their work.
What made this week special was the chance to work with kids. The participants were able to see first-hand how kids responded to the activities. Smiles were big. Laughter could be heard all around. And when it came time to chat, kids were clever and witty. Participants were also then able to try and run an activity themselves with the kids. It was wonderful to see the amount of learning occurring on the futebol pitch. What was even more exciting were the mornings when participants would arrive eager to tell us they had tried the activities with their kids and has a lot of success showing us pictures and videos. The week hadn’t even ended yet and the work CAC is doing was already having an impact.
One particular day stood out to me, being a coach myself and someone highly interested in the use of futebol for social impact. A huge discussion between coaches who are training kids in futebol clubs and mentors/educators who are working with children in social projects had erupted. The coaches wondered how they could use such activities when the parents are looking for them to teach their kid the game and develop them into the “next Neymar.” A valid point, but the others in the group didn’t see eye to eye which created some great discussion. In the end, whether it be working with kids in a top futebol club or working with kids in a social project or at school, we are responsible for guiding them as they are the future generation. We can teach them how to work in groups, how to be responsible, to be confident, to work hard, to dream big, to understand the importance of education and gender equality, and to not cheat, lie and steal through futebol. At the end of the day, not every child trained in these futebol clubs will be “the next Neymar,” but they will be the next generation of adults and it is important as coaches, educators, and mentors we guide them in the right direction regardless if we are working with them as a futebol coach or as a mentor in a social program.
This week was really inspiring to me. It showed that the participants were really taking in all that we were giving them. They understood that the game their country is so passionate about can be one of the many solutions to help ease the problems they face in their communities. Only two weeks in and I could already see the difference CAC was making in the lives of these leaders. Not only did participants now understand what sport for social impact is, but they also started to apply it immediately. At the end of the day, that little ball in this big country represents life. A futebol something so small, yet so big in the hearts of Brazilians can be used to create change and improve communities one small step at a time.
To Sao Paulo and Futebol Social, obrigado!!