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Teaching skills and getting friendship in return

 Aurora da Rua (Brazil) 15 November 2019

From social worker to sports instructor, Jairo Marques swapped the streets for soccer pitches. Three years ago, the coach put together a team of homeless people at the Salvador Centre for Social Reintegration and has used the sport for resocialisation. (746 Words) - By Staff Writer


Jairo Marques. Photo: Sam Pegg

How did the idea to create a football team of homeless people come about?

"In 2007 I was working with the homeless. My work was basically to gather people on the streets and take them to the social reintegration centre to do nothing. I started to realise that my job was like melting ice. There was no point at all. That same year, there was a soccer tournament and they needed someone to referee the game. But the coaches were reluctant because it involved a team of homeless people. As I had experience with street people and sporting events, I used both and made myself available to help the team. At game time, I gathered the crowd and said a prayer with them in the middle of the pitch. I asked them to help me make everything work well and I promised that if it went well, football would not be just once a year, but would run throughout the year. It worked. The game was a success and I was asked to work at the Center for Social Reintegration every week. Now I help with physical education, football, stretching and even provide guitar lessons."


What are the values you seek to promote through football?

"Respect, unity, fraternity. Sport is actually a great tool to integrate people. In football, you learn to think collectively, to work as a team, to know how to lose and to win. We get closer to one another. Football gives you some great moments of well-being and happiness, especially for those coming from the street. As well as sobering you up. If you are on the team you cannot drink alcohol or use drugs. Before going onto the pitch we say our motto together: "We play football to better our lives." I remember my happiness when we started the team. Working while knowing you're helping others to reintegrate is undoubtedly a great satisfaction. I speak their language, understand the reality in which they live. The return is friendship. They call me daddy and when I meet them on the street it's a party."


How do you see the growth of players after being involved in football?

"The first change is in their aggression. When many of them start playing they are nervous and aggressive. Over time, they learn to be good sports, to be more calm and more patient. Sport is health, it aids in human development and brings benefits to the body and mind. The fact of having a uniform, sports equipment, being part of a team and being a player already really increases the self-esteem of someone living on the streets, and instills discipline and responsibility. Their own behavior reflects this. One day I was on the bus and one of them who is a street seller started talking, saying that he was a football player and was part of a team. I was glad to see that the sport helps them feel more like people, more capable. And the good thing is that society also learns to look at them from in more humane way."


How does your work help society see homeless people more humanely?

"We organise competitions that bring together residents of the street with the residents of the neighborhood. As we usually play at the Boa Viagem pitch, we play against teams of people who live in that neighborhood. These games are great. People have the opportunity to get to know each other and make friends. I've heard many positive comments. Some people think that because they are homeless, the games would turn into brawls. On the contrary, I work as a sports instructor in other places, with people with a more stable social situation, and none of them are as disciplined as this group from the Centre. They are a real example. So in the end, when the team eventually win a match against a team from the neighborhood, we'll celebrate with a beer. They can drink as much as they like and it is all on my bill."


Originally published by Aurora da Rua, Brazil. ©


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