The walls of the classrooms are like dressing rooms “where the stars prepare to take the pitch ahead of the big match” pointed out Executive Director Susana Moreira. The pupils are listed on a poster in the style of a starting line-up ahead of a game. Icons with red and yellow cards outline the rules of behaviour, and lists with players’ shirt numbers and the number of goals they have scored help the pupils learn arithmetic.
This demonstration kicked off the visit made by FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke to the Bola Pra Frente Institute. The organisation was created by the former World Champion Jorginho in 2002 in the Guadalupe neighbourhood in the north of Rio de Janeiro, and works with socially underprivileged children.
The event was held to celebrate the inclusion of Bola pra Frente in the list of social projects that would receive support from Football for Hope in 2014. In the year of the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil, the funding of initiatives in the host country is to be expanded to 25 organisations. All of them were submitted to a thorough analysis, and only those with a proven track record were selected. A total of 108 football-related social development programmes across the world will benefit from FIFA’s financial support this year for a total amount of 3.1m USD.
Jorginho brims with pride at the recognition his social work has garnered. The former full-back turned coach was presiding over the ceremonies put on for the group of visitors, which included other ex-players of A Seleção, Bebeto and Cafu. Jorginho led the group through the classrooms and oversaw what was happening on the football pitch, demonstrating activities such as a simultaneous mathematics class and penalty-taking activity.
“We aren’t a kids’ football school," explained Jorginho. "We work on enhancing the children’s education, knowledge and professional qualifications, but the focus is on educational sport. Today Bola pra Frente aims to train 190 social sports instructors and provide activities for more than 19,000 children in Brazil. We receive 800 children a year here."
“Today we can see that football can change the world, and I’m not only talking about hosting the World Cup," Valcke said. "The real beauty of the World Cup is in seeing these initiatives take shape. FIFA has already invested 36m USD in the Football for Hope project. We are supporting a wide range of organisations across the world and today we are expanding to 25 organisations in Brazil. Football can bring hope to children. Education is the key to surviving and developing in today’s world."
Two success stories exemplifying the work of Bola pra Frente are 17-year-old youths, Marcelo and Veronica. Through the institute, Veronica had the opportunity to go on a ten-day exchange trip to Germany. As for Marcelo, as an alumnus of Bola pra Frente since he was eight-years-old, he was chosen as the FIFA flag-bearer at the Confederations Cup and plans to study management at university.
“The Institute has been a major influence on my life," he said. "Bola pra Frente has been involved in everything I’ve done. It really helped me become a better person, a more responsible citizen. The community is far happier today, the youngsters move ahead with their lives more positively. I grew up with the Institute. Everything I know today I owe to the people here. I can’t imagine myself without Bola pra Frente alongside me."