Case study – Drika

Once a young person at risk, now a leader

Drika led Brazil to glory at the Street Child World Cup Rio 2014. She’s now a football coach working with children at risk of the streets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I have always enjoyed football. I did not know it would change my life.

Drika, former Brazil Captain and now community coach

Drika’s story

Drika was born and raised by her grandmother in Sergipe, Northern Brazil. She was one of 10 children, and the family had no electric lights, no TV, or stove. She had no toys or games. Football was the one thing that made her happy.

When she was 14, her grandmother died and she went to live with her mother and step-father in Rio de Janeiro, but was thrown out and ended up ‘couch-surfing’. She was eventually taken in by her aunt.

Things began to change for Drika when she started training with Favela Street Foundation in one of Rio’s largest favelas, Complexo da Penha.

Of the children living and working on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the vast majority come from areas like Complexo. Every day the children and young people are at risk of exploitation and violence from the drug gangs and the police, where gunfights on the streets often break out.

Winning on and off the pitch

Favela Street was chosen to represent Brazil at the Street Child World Cup Rio 2014, and, with Drika as captain, the team went all the way to the final, where they beat the Philippines 1-0.

As a result of the Street Child World Cup, Street Child United built the Safe Space pitch and programme in Complexo da Penha, with the support of GM Chevrolet. Drika was chosen as one of the community coaches, acting as an inspirational role model and leader for the children of the community.

She helps up to 300 children a year play sports and learn, reducing their risk of exploitation and abuse, developing their life skills and improving their education, training and employment opportunities.


I had to get used to the responsibility of being the role model to younger girls in the project and the leader to my teammates.

Inspiring others

Her commitment and hard work has been recognised by sporting legends and leaders. In 2016, Drika was accepted on the Michael Johnson Positive Track leadership course in Dallas, Texas.

During the Rio 2016 Olympics she met with Wilfried Lemke, the former Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on sport for development and peace, to discuss how she uses sport to promote peace and inclusion.

Now I have a job, giving a chance to at risk children. I have a big family that supports me and gives me advice, and provides me with opportunities to have a better life.”