The Eastside FC 2005 boys are now traveling in Brazil with Coach Alex Silva. They are training and competing against some of country’s top soccer academies. Their most memorable match happened in an unlikely place.
On June 30, the team visited one of Rio de Janeiro’s infamous favelas - the poorest neighborhoods where tourists don’t usually go due to crime. The EFC boys and their families, however, received an incredibly warm welcome, as invited guests, with soccer uniting two very different worlds.
A big crowd gathered to watch our EFC boys play their Vila Aliança youth team. The Brazilian boys play with skill and speed, but most of all – passion. For many children in the favelas, soccer offers hope of a way out from gangs and drugs. Their coach, Franklin Ferreira de Melo, created a project called “Craques da Vida,” which translated means “Champions in Life.”
They often play without the equipment that our kids consider necessities for the game. The EFC team arrived with donations from home - suitcases filled with cleats, jerseys, shorts, socks and soccer balls. They left with so much more - eyes opened, hearts filled, lives forever touched.
Coach Silva says, “This experience gave parents and players a look deep inside life here. They got to see and feel how difficult it is for kids growing up in this environment. They’re fighting every day and have to make the right decisions that will impact their lives forever. Even though they are fighting every day, they still have a smile on their face. This will show our players to not take anything for granted. When they get back to the U.S., they know they can be anything they want and appreciate everything they have.”
Here are some of the photos that really tell the story of this humbling experience: