Today, I was brought back down to Earth.

Totally caught up in the hype of the World Cup, I selfishly, never gave the true story of the people of Rio a thought. I was so immersed in the World Cup Fever that never once, did I think about the poverty, crime, drug abuse, or the ‘real life’ of the residents. What I mean by that, is the life behind the red stage curtain of the wealthy FIFA corporation, and their affluent World cup.

As a rest day, our group decided that we wanted to take a step back from the bright lights, flag bearing and beer drinking. We wanted to see for ourselves what is happening in the back streets of Brazil.

After hearing our day’s ittinery, a couple of other tourist’s tried to get us to rethink our plans, and if we must, to hire a guide for security and to leave all of our valuables in the hotel for fear of getting mugged. This, for some would have been enough to put us off our sight seeing tour, but we were sure that by sticking together as a group that we would be fine (our group is called The True Believers after all.)

So, in the pouring rain, we were off to the Favelas.

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The Favelas is what we would call villages, that have been built on the side of the mountain. When I say built, you probably imagine a nice little 3 bedroom brick built residence with road access, running water and a TV.

And, after climbing the 1000 steps, (the only access to the Favela’s), what I saw today knocked me for six.

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I have never seen such narrow corridors, and alleyways. Literally hundreds of graffiti covered walls, windows and sheds line the steep hills of  this Favela. The locals later told us that it is common for up to 12 people to live together in one room.  kids roam the alleyways, and card playing men nod their heads at us, their way of acknowledgement.

Exposed, live overhead wires cover the area, which, alarmingly provides electric and telephone wires to some of the houses.

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As we climbed higher and higher, the view got better and better. We stopped briefly so that we could ‘capture the moment’ but also secretly because me, and the other old blokes were knackered after all those steps!

Eventually, after yet more steps, and at the top of the mountain side we reached the football pitch that we had been told about.

On this mud covered concrete some of the local children were happily playing soccer.

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Their one release was soccer.

We decided to join in, and give them a game. (Except, that they are all mini Pele’s in the making, and they wiped the floor with us oldies!) we gained quite a gathering nonetheless, with everyone wanting to join in with the game.

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It was a fantastic moment for the kids, but also a really eye opening one for us. Football really can unite everyone, wether it is here, in the poverty stricken Brazillian Favela’s, or in the $500 World Cup stadium, less than a 20 minute walk from here.

After giving the locals our football shirts, and anything else that we could, we decided to make our way back home.

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As the rain was now pouring so heavily, it was incredibly difficult to navigate back down the steep mud covered steps.

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The boys that we played soccer with saw us struggling with the pathway, and invited us into their homes to shelter from the weather. They introduced us to their families, and provided food for us.

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Unlike the reputation of the danger of the Favela’s, These villagers were unreal,  and welcomed us like we were family.

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The guy standing next to me in this picture is one of the nicest blokes I have met. He is nicknamed Rocky, and if you watch this clip, you will see why.

A true inspiration.

It was a truly eye opening experience, and one of my World cup memories that will stay with me forever.

Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Great to see Bridgey and put across so well. Amazing you were invited into the homes, how nice is that. Looks like you enjoyed the whole experience x

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Michelle, really was the most amazing day and to be able to see these streets and alley ways 1st hand makes you realise how lucky we all are.

  2. A good read son. How the other half lives eh. I watched a TV series on the favellas prior to the world cup, what struck me was, how they had nothing, but they always smiled, amazing!!

    • Michael says:

      Thanks mam xx The best part for me was showing the kids card tricks and football tricks because the smile they gave after was priceless. xx

  3. Jessica says:

    Wow..loved reading this today. Amazing. Xxx

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Jessica, it really was inspirational and one of the most amazing days.
      I will never complain about anything again, well until kate tells me to clean the dishes again.

  4. Jude Hunter says:

    A Really heartfelt experience, thanks for sharing this!

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Jude, pleased I can share days like this as people back home just think of the glitz and glamour of the World Cup but the reality is sickening.
      The kids over here would love Rory’s magic
      Love to the family

  5. Denisre Moncrieff says:

    Fantastic read its heartbreaking how the live and a few miles down the road, the money people x

    • Thanks Denisre
      This was the highlight of my World Cup tour.
      Seeing the smiles on the kids face was priceless.
      I will never complain about another thing again after seeing how these families live but yet they still all smile without a care in the world.

  6. Ros Te maari says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Loved the videos showing a REAL insight into the people of Rio and how they live.

    • My pleasure Ros Te Maari
      I had the most amazing experience in the Favelas and it is so good to be able to share the whole day with other people.It really brings you back to earth seeing how some people live day in day out.
      Regards
      Michael Bridges

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