Team Brazil loses a star

It is with great sadness that Street Child World Cup notifies our supporters and partners of the tragic death of Rodrigo Kelton from Team Brazil (boys) in Fortaleza. Our sympathies go to Rodrigo’s family and our partners at O Pequeno Nazareno, rx who worked so hard to give Rodrigo a life away from the streets. Rodrigo was lost to the streets on 13 February during a visit to his family home in Fortaleza. It was his 14th birthday.

Rodrigo’s story is the typical one of a street child. In 2000, diagnosis he was born into poverty in Fortaleza in North Eastern Brazil. Rodrigo’s family was broken by poverty and his parents’ addiction to drugs. As the family broke down, Rodrigo and his elder brother Raphael started to spend more and more time on the streets.

It was in 2009 that outreach worker Antonio Carlos from O Pequeno Nazareno met Rodrigo on the streets and introduced him to the organisation. Rodrigo loved to play football and computer games, and he was excelling in his responsibilities as a player on his way to the Street Child World Cup.

The staff at O Pequeno Nazareno saw the Street Child World Cup as a way of keeping Rodrigo focused on a brighter future. In order to be part of the team, Rodrigo had to attend school and behave himself. It was a challenge that he seemed to relish. The project was working hard to build up Rodrigo’s self-esteem and it was clear to them that when he was in the presence of the other children – and especially on the football field – he became a leader.

According to O Pequeno Nazareno founder Bernardo Rosemeyer:

“The invitation for us to participate in the Street Child World Cup made a big difference in the life of Rodrigo. He accepted the challenge, quit drugs and he did not miss any training. Rodrigo’s involvement and the prospect of the trip to Rio had been a light in a life touched by too much suffering. ”

It was a long hard battle to show Rodrigo that he could have a future away from street life, and ultimately it was a battle that Rodrigo and the organisation were unable to win. On February 13, Rodrigo and his brother Raphael were walking to their family home when drug traffickers approached them and attacked them. Rodrigo was shot and killed instantly and Raphael was shot twice but survived due to the gun malfunctioning. The reason given was retaliation for a robbery that Rodrigo had allegedly carried out many years before in the territory of the traffickers. His death was used to make an example to his family and the community.

Sadly, Rodrigo is the second young person whom Pequeno Nazareno has lost this year to the streets. In January, Isaquiel Silva who had just turned 18 was shot and killed in a random attack whilst sleeping on the streets.

At Rodrigo’s funeral the boys from Team Brazil carried Rodrigo’s coffin and prayed with his mother. His mother told the boys to keep practising and to play for Rodrigo as being on the team was what he had loved. Rodrigo’s Mother had attended training sessions and was very excited by his prospect of Rodrigo travelling to Rio. According to the project it was the closest Mother and son had been in many years and the last few months of Rodrigo’s life were some of his happiest.

Bernardo Rosemeyer: “The past returned to haunt Rodrigo before the seed of new life could have risen and brought the fruits of a life in dignity.”

Real alternatives do exist to this violent cycle of street life. Around the world the Street Child World Cup is partnering with projects who have developed these alternatives and in Rio 2014 we will not only be celebrating the game Rodrigo loved but also presenting their challenge from the streets so that the rights and future these children are entitled to can be realised.

Rodrigo Kelton, aged 14. Rest in peace.  No child should have to live on the streets

Photo by Jo Clark

Photo by Jo Clark

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