Eight and nine year old Amanda Matías and María Victoria Sánchez change their ballet shoes for football boots every day. They are both beneficiaries of the FutbolNet project being run by the FC Barcelona Foundation in Rio de Janeiro. They live in Complex da Maré and believe that playing football will also help them with their ballet skills – while it also presses home such values as respect, teamwork and humility, which are so universal that they can be applied as much to sport as they can do dance or so many other aspects of life.
Leilane Vieira, María Victoria’s mother, is a primary school teacher and explains that the presence of both girls and boys on the field is helping to dispel the preconception of football is just for boys and that girls should stick to ballet. “FutbolNet generates interaction and breaks down paradigms and prejudice” she says. The boys are nicer to them, they respect them, they look after them and invite them to join their games. Elsewhere, they don’t even let them play.”
The FC Barcelona Foundation has been implementing FutbolNet in Rio since 2012, the idea being to generate social cohesion among young people, fostering the values that can be derived from sport and eradicating violence. Jacy Matías, Amanda’s mother, adds that “sport creates future prospects for young people and gives them the hope of a better future. People who live here have a hard life. Violence has a psychological effect and football helps to develop discipline, improve attitudes and promote healthy habits”.