The real goals of education

From top left: Gleidson, Lucas, Luquinhas, Robson, Gleiciano, Freixo, Boca, Yan, Rodolfo, Douglas & Gleison From top left: Gleidson, Lucas, Luquinhas, Robson, Gleiciano, Freixo, Boca, Yan, Rodolfo, Douglas & Gleison

A group of 18 boys from Rio who have just crossed the Atlantic to compete in two football tournaments in Norway definitely caught attention from who was attending the matches in Norway Cup and SandarCup this year. “Oh, Brazilians! Look how well they play!”, pointed out one of the teenagers seated on the grass while talking to a friend during the third match of Casas da Noruega team, the one against Tynset (2-0). Then, a father of a 9-year-old over heard that the group is part of a social project in a poor community in Rio. “That’s fantastic, this life experience must have a great impact to the boys”, said Andreas Paleologos. 

The Brazilian football team is called Casas da Noruega after the Norwegian NGO behind the sports and educational activities in Bancários, a local community of Ilha do Governador, in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The organization Casas da Noruega was founded in 2009 and today the school offers tutoring classes for local kids and teenagers as well as Music, English and Computer classes. In total, there are over 400 boys and girls attending the school. In order to keep the students in school and away of crime life, for example, the NGO works closely with sport activities, such as football and athletics. Thus, the football team which played in Norway came up as a motivation and support tool to keep children studying. It is simple: to be part of the football practice, the kid must go to school.

Last year was the first time of the team competing in Norway and they came back to Brazil with two trophies: champions of the biggest youth soccer tournament in the world, Norway Cup, and champions of Sandarcup both in the 18-19 year old category. This year, the team lost the playoff match on penalties shoots after two rounds of extra time. Casas da Noruega was the leader of its group with 9 points and ended up scoring 18 goals in five matches and not did not concede any goal. On the other hand, the boys have backed up their performance from last year and defended their title as Sandarcup champions in 2017. Coming away with 26 scores in a total of six matches, the Brazilian players won Fristad/Sparör (5-0) in the big final.

Nevertheless, the positive feedback regarding the player’s behavior, the fairplay, humbleness and teamwork were the big achievement according to the NGO founder and leader of Casas da Noruega team, Snorre Holand. “This was our confirmation that the education in school is giving results. Is not reaching the highest position in the competition is the motivation of building a life. That’s our main goal so I think we won”, says Holand. The goalkeeper and the oldest of the group Felipe Freixo, believes that what got the public attention was their Brazilian way of expressing themselves and dealing with the situations. “The improvisation, the friendly gestures, the inclusion, charisma”, said the player. “On the other side, the Norwegian hospitality was incredible, they treated us very well. Both the first time and the second time. They were very attentive, cared very much for us", said Freixo.

“We are very cheerful, we like to play, we like to please. As we were received very well, we felt a responsibility to give it back, to show that we were happy”, explained João, 19 years old. When questioned what impressed him the most he answer straight away: the people, they treated us warmly and with respect, said João Ricardo Mattos.

The experience of playing outside their home country is beyond their reality in the poor community of Rio. For eight of the boys, this was the first time in Norway. "In 2016, we were all first-time sailors and this second time was easier since we could tell the youngers a bit on the country. The athletes arrived better prepared regarding the culture and the habits, explained the coach Gilson "Chico" Ferreira. "The younger boys mirrored themselves in the older ones, who passed on their experience, showed what is right and what is wrong, said Gleidson Bernardo. That was his second time in the country but first time as captain. "It was a great learning process to be captain of the team, to lead a group of young people you must be responsible, tougher. I'm more playful, so that was a challenge, mentioned the 19 year-old.
The challenges are positives if facing it with the right attitude according to Freixo. "This is the most exciting part. I particularly love challenges and the feeling of giving our best is the greatest possible: when learning from overcoming barriers such as different cultures, different football style. We are athletes and we must always be evolving, adapting and getting stronger. It is a passionate thing and we athletes love to deal with it, explained Freixo.

Not only the food habits, the time zone and weather, there are more differences between Norway and Brazil according to the boys. "In the crowd, for example, people make a lot of noise in Brazil and in Norway is quieter. The game is more defensive and it is strong but we’ve watched European football on TV so I already knew what to expect. Overall, it is a very good feeling to represent Brazil, the social project and the children. I was surprised by the education of people. I really thought people in Europe were very polite. So I thought, is this true? I had to see it for myself! And the solidarity itself, I will take that as a life lesson", said Renan Azevedo, one of the highlights of the team and in Norway for the first time.

Overall, the dream of 10 of 10 of the boys is one day play in a European team: "We wondered if we have the conditions and qualification to play in a Norwegian team. That would be wonderful, said Gleidson. There is a dream of playing and working in Norway; a very different country in every way. The high-performance athlete is highly valued and unfortunately in Brazil the reality is very difficult for professional football, said Robson dos Santos Souza.
The feedback to the youngest
"Most do not have conditions, thus to live this experience is quite an achievement. The younger ones want to take up this football opportunity and surely they expect the time to come", explained Freixo.  Sometimes the players have direct contact with some children, who are struggling in school, may be lost, needing to hear a positive story. “The school helps kids to become citizens, too”, emphasized.
“The children look up for us and it turns up that we became role models for the local communities’ kids. They conclude that if they keep trying, they can go too”, explained Gleidson, who has been part of the project for 5 years. "The project is really good. Football is currently the main sport so, when you represent the NGO out there in Europe and when they see the pictures of Casas da Noruega on Facebook, it's really cool. There are many children who do not have conditions and the project is excellent for opening opportunities for the children, said Renan.
“The impact is very positive. It is great to know that through the work and the project of Casas da Noruega it is possible to turn dreams into reality”, concluded the leader of the team, Jair Ferreira.

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