Over the weekend, kids in the Brazilian city of Taquaritinga gained a new place to play that’s not only safe and dignified, but good enough for a superstar soccer pro.
Retired world champion José Edmílson Gomes de Moraes, a native son of Taquaritinga, returned to where he played soccer as a kid to share the benefits of his success and create opportunity. On Saturday, March 7, the Edmílson Foundation opened a brand new, FIFA-certified synthetic turf soccer field. The project was supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
“To me it’s a dream come true,” Edmílson said of the project.
He hopes that the field and the Edmílson Foundation’s nearby premises will become a resource for the whole Taquaritinga community. The new field will make possible the rollout of a 16-month social sports program for children and teenagers from the region designed to help overcome social exclusion. Rentals of the facility will help the Edmílson Foundation generate the necessary revenue to make this program sustainable in the long term.
Edmílson became a World Cup champion with the Brazilian National Team in 2002 and a European Champion with FC Barcelona in 2006. In its effort to promote positive change in the lives of children through the game of soccer, this project by the Edmílson Foundation parallels the Barça Foundation’s innovative FutbolNet program.
FutbolNet uses the game of soccer and other sport activities to give young people a chance to exercise agency, take responsibility, include others, and collectively reflect on all of it. With support from SNF, the program has expanded to serve populations in Greece, Lebanon, and Italy with the aim of bringing together refugee and local children on the playing field.
In 2017, Edmílson, along with other players from the Barça Players’ Association, visited the island of Lesbos and the Kara Tepe refugee camp to take part in a FutbolNet sports clinic for hundreds of refugee and local children. Edmílson was also among the speakers at the July 2018 installment of SNF’s monthly DIALOGUES series, titled “Football will save the world.”
The Edmílson Foundation project supported by SNF also seeks to provide safe and dignified environments for children ages six to eighteen to play around Brazil, in Sumaré, Capicuíba, Betânia, and São Paulo.