SAO PAULO – The Inter Campus centre in Jardim Santo Antonio, Sao Paulo had to move location a few months ago because the stream running down the side of the pitch had started to encroach onto the playing surface.
It’s not an ordinary stream: it’s the liquid that drains away from the houses in this poverty-stricken neighbourhood. For years there has been talk of plans to cover the sewers but work has never got under way and the result was piles of debris collecting by the side of the pitch. It started by taking over the corner flag, then gradually ate its way into the rest of the pitch until it reached the area.
Now the kids train in a facility not far away, where a roof protects the artificial turf them the sun and the rain. There’s not much space, but still enough to run an Inter Campus training session.
At the entrance a sign warns, “Drugs are not permitted in this area” – assuming they are used elsewhere. That’s another reason to keep the children busy playing, as it offers them a healthy alternative to the many forms of delinquency available.
This is where Celso comes in. He looks after the kids three times a week, providing football, fun and games. Playing sport with youngsters is his real passion, but he also has a day job at Sao Paulo prison, where he works as a guard.
He says that spending so much time near prisoners makes him feel an even greater sense of responsibility towards the children: they are still in time to choose a different path, with a football and the Inter jersey.