My knees ached, the aftertaste of homemade Brazilian sweets lingered in my mouth, and a smile was etched on my face. Two weeks have passed since the field opening in São Lourenço da Mata, Pernambuco, BR, and while the aftertaste of the sweet corn has faded, the memory of the day still lingers. A day filled with various sights and sounds of a community coming together to celebrate the culmination of a two year project forged in sweat, tears, and laughter.
After waiting 20 years for a field to call their own, a dream was becoming a reality for the residents of São Lourenço da Mata.
The excitement in the air was palatable. Michael Jackson was playing on the stereo system. People started showing up from every corner.
I was approached within 15 minutes by two curious kids wanting to be put on film: Gustavo Henrique, 10, and Bavitoria Da Silva, 6. Gustavo was bursting with energy and eager to get on the field to play, "Eu quero jogar agora!"/ "I want to play now!", while Bavitoria was on the shy side, "Sim, jogo um pouco."/ Yes, I play a little." I asked if she was going to play today and she responded, "Hoje, eu acho que não. Eu estou com um pé machucado."/ "Today, I don't think so. I have an injured foot." A couple hours later I encountered Bavitoria running around the field with other kids---I imagine the injured foot couldn't stop her from enjoying the opportunity to run around with friends.
After about 45 minutes I needed a glass of water. Sandra, a local who noticed the obvious grimace on my face (Northeast heat is no joke!), offered me a cup. I proceeded to ask her about the inauguration and what it meant to her. She was pumped. More importantly, she was pumped for her budding soccer superstar daughter, Maria Clara, who at the ripe old age of 4 years old was already striking fear in opponents. Sandra mentioned how Maria Clara preferred the nightly sport shows to the nightly soap operas, and how the field would provide a safe and positive environment for her to nurture her passion for the game with other like-minded young girls. Maria Clara was shy, but that all changed with a ball at her feet later that day.
Mano, one of the co-founders of love.fútbol, told me before arriving about the amount of work, sacrifice, and follow-up required to build a community soccer pitch. There was a tangible feeling of success, pride, accomplishment, and ownership, that ran through all the conversations I had with the locals that day. Through love.fútbol providing the raw materials and expertise to this local community, a legacy for future generations had been created, and I was privileged to witness the first day of its existence in the community.
The game of soccer is simple but the impact is far-reaching. I learned that firsthand in the northeast of Brazil.
Writing from Três Corações , Minas Gerais, Brazil. 03-11-2014