Article by David Lyons, Street Child World Cup Communications Volunteer
By the afternoon of the day after the finals of the 2014 Street Chid World Cup an eerie quiet had descended on Lonier, where the event was based.
Teams and volunteers had been steadily departing, the atmosphere of excitement was dissipating as the number of people on site dropped from hundreds to just tens, and those who were left were attempting to slowly recover physically and emotionally from the intensity of the previous week.
The tranquility was only broken by the shouts coming from the AstroTurf pitch, previously known as Lonier Soccer City, where a local Brazilian junior football team were training.
The scene anticipating the return of normal life was all the more jarring because it was taking place in front of the iconic image of the 2014 Street Child World Cup, which will forever be imbued with emotion and significance: Joel Bergner’s mural.
The mural depicts three football players. Two played at the 2014 Street Child World Cup: Gopinath from India and Elsie from El Salvador. The third image is of Rodrigo, who would have been playing for Brazil boys, but was tragically murdered just weeks before the tournament.
The outlines of the players are made up of hexagons, in which Street Champions, team managers and SCWC volunteers were invited to paint pictures or messages.
The result is a work of art created by people from all the corners of the globe, with deep symbolic and personal meaning. It is the 2014 Street Child World Cup’s physical legacy to Brazil, and has been an emotional focus point throughout the week.
Joel Bergner explained the concept behind the mural: “I had to come up with a big idea we could do in a quick time. The hexagons are like the panels on footballs. We made sure the players sat down to think about what they were going to put on there before they did it, so everything on there is personal and meaningful.
“I do a lot of projects with marginalised people – refugees, street children, people in conflict zones. Art is a great way of teaching, and can really help people who have suffered trauma of some kind. In that way it is similar to sport – it is a way of engaging people as a tool for education. I’ve found that sometimes people can express themselves through art, and open up, in a way they might find more difficult if they were talking to someone.”
Pasteur, who was playing for Burundi, explained what he’d painted on the mural: “I have painted my home. I need to show the whole world where the team lives. I’ve drawn the river, the mountains, the city and the village. This isn’t just for Brazil, this is for the world.”
Mega from Indonesia girls’ team used her hexagon to write a summery of her favourite thing about the Street Child World Cup. In doing so she demonstrated an attitude which everyone who has met the Indonesia squad has observed and admired: “I am happy to meet many new friends from all the world.” She said:”This is an expression from my heart. I will always remember this place, and now it will always remember me.”
Gilbert from Kenya painted a picture of Vidigal, the community in Rio the Street Champions visited earlier in the week: “I liked the way of life in Vidigal, and how they welcomed us into their home. I am happy because in this way we will be remembered forever – people will see this and say ‘that is when Team Kenya were here.'”
A number of children used their space to write the motto of the 2014 Street Child World Cup: I am Somebody. The phrase features on the mural in a number of languages, including English, Urdu and Tamil.
Of course the majority of the hexagons which made up the image of Rodrigo were left for his friends in the Brazilian boys team. Before the mural was ready for Street Champions to begin filling in their spaces the unfinished image of Rodrigo had already been the focus of emotional moments as teams celebrated goals by saluting the outline. Brazil boys, Argentina boys and Pakistan boys all dedicated goals to Rodrigo in a global act of solidarity against the violence children suffer on the streets.
Antonio Carlos, the Social Educator who found Rodrigo and brought him into the football team painted a quote on the mural: “Vai dar cara ou coroa.” He explained the words’ significance: “It is a quote from Rodrigo. He always used to say this, which means ‘everything’s going to be fine.’ To put it there is almost like I can hear him saying it, and he is here with you.”
Vinicius, Rodrigo’s friend, wrote: “Te amamos” – “We love you.” Vinicius said: “Rodrigo was a very special person to us, and we will never forget him. In this way other people can see how important he is. It would be better if he could be here, but the other kids from all round the world showing him their respect means he will never be forgotten.”
Watch out for the making of video of the Mural coming soon.
“When ever people come across me they laugh. It seems like my mouth is zipped because they talk for us. I wish they could give us a chance to talk for ourselves.”
“I experienced hardcore street life in my youth. I know what it’s like. I congratulate the Street Child World Cup project in it’s commitment to bring attention to the plight of Street Children through the power of football.”
“It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of the Street Child World Cup at Downing Street. It gives children a voice through football, sales a platform to express their rights and celebrate their abilities – I’m proud to add my support.”