Our Brazilian adventure begins one Tuesday morning at 5:30 as we touch down in the South American country. Having checked into the hotel and dumped our bags, our first ports of call are the hubs of Cavalcanti, Kitungo and Vila do Joao, all of which are situated in the northern suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, nearby or within the Maré favela.
The sprawling community extends way off into the horizon, with the army guarding every entrance, as is customary nowadays. Though the distance between each centre isn’t huge, the incredible amount of traffic on the roads means that there are no short trips. We’re accompanied by our indefatigable local guide Del, who uses the car journeys to update us on the project and explain the delicate social situation in Brazil.
The next day, we have one last Rio training session on the Conjunto Esperanca pitch, before attending an important institutional meeting with the new consul general, Riccardo Battisti. An Inter fan, he opens us with open arms alongside Luigina Masella, with whom we’ve been working over the last few months to transport a bounty of over 2000 Nerazzurri jerseys to the country.
That evening, we head to Sao Paulo, where Chiquinho and Antonio put us up in their homes with trademark hospitality. In the Sao Miguel Paolista district, around three hours from the city centre, we meet parish trainers Fernando and Marcelo and are introduced to the instructors responsible for Agua Vermelha and Santo Antonio for the very first time. The activities progress in a happy atmosphere, with the instructors receiving valuable training and the kids able to enjoy simply playing football.
The time had come to head home, images of the red earth pitches in our minds and the sound of the children’s laughter in our hearts. We’ll keep that little bit of Brazil with us, until next time.