March 8, 2021

Favelas: Playing football with guns in your pants | sports

Favelas: Playing football with guns in your pants | sports

"Karen! Karen! Karen!"

The scream is sharp, playful and insistent, ignored by all those who converse in the small dining room of any house in Morro de Salgueiro. The dog barks, the cages of the canaries creak and Karen, 11, jumps shotgun from the couch. You hear the click of the flip flops against the floor when it runs through corridors that look like labyrinths. "They come for her because she's the best," says the girl's grandfather. It is the first time he opens his mouth, perhaps the only one. The talk is dominated by his wife. First he shows the house, then the views from El Morro, he also refers to the birds, and, above all, boasts of his granddaughter. Good student, Yuyitsu champion at the police school, in love with football. "Neymar?" He says; "do not. I like Marta. "

Karen glides through the streets as steep as winding, hard to climb for a stranger, not for her, much less on a Saturday morning when it's time to go to play ball in Salgueiro football school. Approximately 7,000 people live in El Morro. It is one of the 767 favelas of Rio de Janeiro. 20.63% of the inhabitants of the capital of Rio de Janeiro live in informal settlements. "I tell him, at least, to drink a glass of water. You can not do sports without drinking water. It can hurt you, "complains Karen's grandmother, retired; her husband works as a painter, his daughter sells taxes and his son-in-law is motoboy, as the delivery men in Brazil are known.

Karen is not alone in the campito. She is one of the 100 girls and boys who participate in the school, a project by Marcos Lelello. At nine o'clock the gate opens and small children between eight and 12 years old begin to appear. "Bom dia", they all say; some slip hand and collide fist. They are dressed in white shirts and blue pants, few, however, have shoes. "I started this project almost 20 years ago for my children, my nephews and some friends of theirs. The idea was always the same: to move children away from the streets, at least for a while ", says Marcos. Maria watches as her son Gabriel Couto, more enthusiastic than talented, runs after the ball. She is the only mother. "Today, fortunately, I had the day off and I was able to come see it." "The best of the project", says María; "Is that the boys are far from the bandits." And he adds with joy: "And look how many girls there are! My father would not let me play football. "

There are paved roads, other dirt roads, however, there are only two roads in Salgueiro. "There is the one that is more immediate, but risky. And there is the longest, but sure. There are many who have chosen to be with the narcos. It is true. Some died, others are prisoners. And they are what they are in the commune. I ask them: 'Do you already have a lot of money?' Do you have all the problems solved? "Says the creator of the project. Reality eclipses fiction in Salguiero. "Millionaires?" Laughs Lelello; "The rich drug traffickers are few. The money is left by two or three and the politicians ". The drug is money in captivity for those who choose the drug trafficking business. "They may have more money than me, but never my freedom. They can not leave the commune ", says Rafael, yesterday a child of the project, today a collaborator of Marcos. "I do not train soccer players, I form people," says Lelello.

An hour ago the children jumped into the field, when, suddenly, Jeseil appears, with slow pace and asleep. Everyone applauds him and Marcos shoots him with his cell phone. Wait on one side until your partners finish the exercise. "I'm not a teacher, I'm an integrator. Here the kids can not know they have to meet schedules, respect their classmates and not say bad words, "explains Marcos.

"I like to come here because there are no fights. No one hits me or screams at me. It's not like the field above, "says Joan, who speaks inside and explains that he does not like Neymar because he falls a lot. "There are other things that happen," Rafael intervenes. The field above is very high. A few meters from the roof of the hill, there from where you can see the Maracana, there is another field. It definitely has nothing to envy to anyone in a luxury neighborhood in Rio. The artificial turf is impeccable and even has a kind of rostrum. "No photos," warns Marcos. Two seconds later the reason is understood. A man with a face that has already tutored with the worst miseries of life guards the house bordering the field with a machine gun attached to the body. "Here you play with guns in your pants. It's not easy to win, "says Rafael.

The match is over. And it's time to eat, for some the most anticipated. Ordered in opposite chairs, they leave a corridor so that Marcos distributes sandwiches and Rafael fills Fanta's glasses. "For many it is the only meal of the day," explains Lelello. Who finances? "The government helps in elections, the police enter the shots. Here we help each other. Friendly people who collaborate, "says Marcos. Like Pablo Dyego, player of Fluminense, raised under the wing of Lelello. "Friends, you just have to trust your friends. I do not want money, then I have to give an account. " Marcos is collecting books to build a library and all he asks is to collaborate with sports equipment. Everything for your children. "Look how happy they are going".

Blue breastplate on chest, Karen scores a goal. He shouts silently with his fist clenched. She is barefoot. "They broke me. Nothing happens, "says Karen, who is already looking for Fluminense. "Our little girl will miss many things, but she will not lack dreams," says her grandmother. And Karen lets her imagination fly. She hopes that one day it will be the crooked of the Flu that will shout her name. Or Brazil's, why not, like Marta. Marcos' desire is simpler. "Never let the police shout your name."

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