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  1. bola

    What was I up to when I was five years old?

    I was in my early years at school, I rode my bike around the park with mum and dad at the weekends, built things out of Lego, watched kids TV and played football in the garden.

    Most of these are probably what a lot of us did at five years of age.

    Some kids however are living a very different reality, especially here in Rio de Janeiro.

    I am talking about those who are the victims of sex exploitation and sadly quite a few are young children.

    For many the World Cup is a time to celebrate but for others it is time to cash in and the sex trade is one of them.

    bola2Myself and Tommy met up with Davina Castro (left) who helps run a project called Ball in the Net, a campaign against sex trafficking.

    She told us some pretty stark and harrowing facts.

    Boys and girls as young as five are being sold for sex. Child prostitutes are included in ‘holiday package deals’ to satisfy tourists. Parents often sell their children for sex as it pays well and keeps the family going.

    Parents get paid 50R (around £13) to loan their kids to clients and up to 80R (£20) if the clients can have sex with penetration. £20.

    Those statements alone were enough to make me feel pretty disgusted.

    I knew this was not an issue which just affects Brazil, it happens all over the world including my own country England.

    But to think tourists are coming to the World Cup not to enjoy the football but to pay for sex with children (they may of course do both) was disturbing.

    Davina told us: “We encourage tourists to enjoy the city, to enjoy the beach, to enjoy the natural beauties such as Sugar Loaf and enjoy the football. But don’t harm our children, do not exploit them, we will do our utmost to protect them.”

    From the first moment you meet Davina you can tell she is someone who cares deeply about making things better, a heart for fairness and a heart for making sure kids are not abused for the twisted pleasures of individuals.

    Only a few months ago, Davina said, a group were arrested in one of the airports in Rio as it was proven they had a package which included kids and teens.

    It shows at least that there is willing from the government and police to crack down on this problem.

    But as a lot of you will probably know, arresting people is fine but how do you prevent it from the grass roots?

    bola3We were invited to Minha Deusa (My Goddess) one of Rio’s low income communities, where Davina helps runs a non-governmental organisation.

    The building, financed by the church, runs several programmes from football for kids to IT classes for the elderly.

    We had a chance to see the football project, run by former Botafogo player Jocimar.

    The hall where they play was packed, probably around 50 kids, aged between five and 17.

    Davina tells us some of these kids have parents who are sex traffickers, some of them have parents who are drugs traffickers, others are brought up by their mothers as their dad is in prison or not there.

    Jocimar (pictured below) later explains that through his project the aim is to encourage the kids to make better choices.

    bola5Some of them are exposed to violence from a young age especially if their family is involved in the drug trafficking trade, therefore the way they know how to play football at first is to assert their authority by violence.

    Installing discipline is a key feature but also showing love, caring for them.

    In that sports hall it was obvious to see this was a safe haven, a place of hope and perhaps most importantly a place of peace and love.

    There were six year olds in that room who have been through more crap than I will ever go through in a lifetime.  You wouldn’t have guessed it though, all of them were either engrossed in the football or wanting to be interviewed by me and Tommy for the radio show. All of them smiling and joking.

    Jocimar says: “Some kids will go and have a better life and that moves us. Unfortunately others have made different choices and got back involved with crime and trafficking.

    “It is a choice the kid has to do, we cannot make it for them, we cannot force them to go a certain way. Our project is guided so the kids and their family can have a better life, if they stick with us then that moves us.”

    As we look out the window we spot a small lime green building (pictured below), a bright bit of colour amongst the sand coloured homes.

    Davina tells us this is a house which the project has just bought. It used to be a sex trafficking den but it is now being turned into a safe house for young mothers.

    It was fitting that this colourful building we could see in the distance was going to be transformed from a den of iniquity to a place of care.

    With projects like these hopefully more five year olds will get to have the same fun I had as a kid, it is a tough challenge but one that needs to be won. 


  2. colombia4

    I have never watched an international game live before.

    So to make my international debut at the Maracana during the World Cup was as good an introduction as I could have hoped for.

    I was fortunate enough to watch Colombia take on World Cup bad boys Uruguay in the second round of the tournament, the knockout phase.

    colombia2Colombia won 2-0 with mercurial talent James Rodriguez (although they were far from a one man team) delivering the knockout blow with a magnificent individual first goal and rounding off a flowing team move for the second.

    So how did this experience differ from all the various league games I have seen in England.

    The last live game I watched was Crystal Palace (an amazing team in south London for those of you who don’t know) take on Liverpool at Selhurst Park in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

    From Selhurst Park in Croydon to the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro is quite a change of scenery. I had to pinch myself a little bit.

    As soon as we got on the Metro towards the stadium you already got a sense of the magnitude of this game.

    colombia3Colombians and Uruguayans were singing at full pelt as they got ready to back their teams. I did not understand a word of what they were saying but it was catchy.

    When we arrived at the Maracana I knew I was arriving at a place steeped in footballing history. I was genuinely in awe as I walked through the turnstiles and made my way into the heart of the stadium.

    We skipped past the beer and refreshment kiosks – they could wait until half time – and got to the entrance to our block of seats.

    The cacophony of noise as I walked into the stadium proper and up to my seat was superb.

    It was obvious that the majority of the crowd was routing for Colombia from Brazilians to Englishmen all blending in as Colombia fans. The singing throughout the game was relentless and, from where I was sitting, there was not a single quiet moment.

    The only bad thing about the game was the final whistle came too quickly. I wanted to more of this atmosphere.

    Walking out of the stadium with hundreds of elated Colombia fans it dawned on me just how lucky I was.

    I might never go to another World Cup match in my lifetime, but to see a game between two South American teams at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro means I have seen a game at one of the greatest tournaments in the world at one of the greatest venues. I am pretty content with that. 


  3. Rio view

    So today is show 15 for Planet Sport Destination Rio which marks the half way stage during our time here in Rio de Janeiro.

    Love Rio vanMost of us have almost been here a month now but it still seems we are scratching the surface of this fascinating city.

    Myself and Tommy, who are producing the Taste of Rio features, are trying to gain an insight into what makes this city tick from the good to the bad to the ugly.

    From Copacabana beach to the City of God one thing we can say at this half way stage is the people have Rio have been nothing short of brilliant.

    Friendly, funny, joyful, helpful, charismatic and (you could apply this as a good or bad point) laid back, the Cariocas are certainly one of a kind.

    maracanaThen of course there is the football. Our reporters have been to every Maracana game so far as well as watching all the other World Cup games and it is safe to say that this is turning out to be one of the most entertaining tournaments I have ever seen.

    If the knockout rounds are just as good as the group stages then perhaps we should hold the World Cup here in Brazil more regularly. There could be worse places to hold a tournament I suppose.

    There is still a lot more for us to explore here in Rio, from doing the touristy stuff such as Sugar Loaf mountain and Corcovado to looking at issues such as human trafficking here in Rio and helping out with some football projects in some of the city’s low income communities.

    We are only at the half way stage but barring some kind of disaster I can only see my fondness of this city growing.

    This city is not perfect (the same as any city I suppose) but it has a good heart, a strong heart, and I cannot wait to see what the next half of this project here in Rio has in store.

    Andy’s top five things about Rio so far: 

    1. The beach – Copacabana and Ipanema have been bubbling with atmosphere since the World Cup began. Fans from different countries converge on these beaches and the atmosphere created is just great. Also it is a great place to go for your days off.
    2. Buffet – You pay by the weight of your plate. Once you get clever with what you pile on you can have a whopping big lunch for a bargain price. Brilliant stuff.
    3. Andy tries to speak Portuguese Acai – This is a drink made from Acai berries. It is thick like ice cream so you need a spoon to eat it. I am addicted to the stuff, they sell it everywhere and it is good for you. Mix it in with granola and it makes a lovely breakfast.
    4. The people – Just brilliant. They have put up with my bad Portuguese for a start so that deserves medal status.
    5. Coffee bars – These little places are everywhere. Need an early morning pick me up? Grab a quick shot of coffee. Need a quick snack to keep you going? Grab a bite for $1R. Lovely. 


    Tommy's top five things about  Rio so far: 

    1. Beach life - Feels like I'm cheating a bit with this one as it encompasses so much - but I love it. The activities (football, volleyball, foot-volley, slack-lining, surfing), the views, the people-watching - it's what Rio's all about.
    2. Meat - I love a BBQ and love a bit of meat. I went to a restaurant the other day and they just kept bringing over different types of meat on skewers and putting it on my plate. Heaven.
    3. Tommy in Rio by the ForteBrazil matches - When the Brazilian team are playing, everything stops - work, school, shopping can wait... the game is on. The yellow and green comes out and the people join together to cheer on (exuberantly) their team. And if they win, it's party time.
    4. Views - Pretty much wherever you are, there is something interesting to look at. From the beach, you can stare out to sea, enjoying a backdrop of mountains (including Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf), the road is lined with hotels, including the luxury Copacabana Palace, and above that the favelas stretch out over the hills. In some respects, the view tells you a lot about the place.
    5. Carioca - The people. They're fun, warm, outgoing but laid-back at the same time, extremely welcoming and hospitable, and some are rather beautiful (inside and out, of course).
  4. futevolei 4

    “Me and Dunga were certainly on the same wavelength today, we were basically reading each other’s minds.”

    This was my colleague Tommy waxing lyrical about Dunga. Unfortunately this was not THE World Cup winning Dunga but a slightly less famous one.

    This was Dunga, a coach who was putting me and Tommy through our paces at futevolei, one of Brazil’s most popular past times.

    For those of you who have not heard of futevoli before it is basically a cross between football and volleyball played on a volleyball court. You can’t use your hands, but can use your head, legs, chest and shoulders to get the ball over the net.

    Having already safely navigated another beach sport in bodyboarding (you might be noticing a trend here) we decided a sport closely related to the beautiful game (football) might be a good shout.

    futevolei 6Dunga (pictured centre right) got us doing some simple header and volley drills (just like being back at school in the UK) before setting up two separate games to see what we were made of.

    I quickly realised that volleying or chesting a ball over the net was much more difficult on sand compared to concrete or normal grass.

    When I say difficult I mean to say I shanked countless shots into the abyss.

    Like any proud Englishman I carried on like nothing had happened and I quickly found a niche to my game. Heading.

    I have never considered myself as strong in the air but on the futevolei court I was teeing up some lovely shots for my team mates with delicate headers as well as winning some as well.

    My coach in this game who I called ‘Fred’ (after the current Brazilian striker) decided to call me Rooney. Obviously because of my heading ability rather than my constant mishit volleys.

    futevolei 2Alongside me on the other court Tommy (pictured right in the flowery shorts) had also found a niche. Serving. With the precision and technique of David Beckham, my colleague was wowing his team mates (including Dunga) with some fantastic serves which had the opposition stumped.

    We had our rough edges but we were once again immersing ourselves (without disgrace) into Brazilian and Rio culture.

    Yes we couldn’t quite do overhead kicks and “shark attack” moves, but we could just about survive on the futevolei court. Tommy even linked up with Dunga, which is certainly something he can tell the grandkids in the future. 

    Listen to the futevolei Taste of Rio feature on programme 12 of Planet Sport - Destination Rio