The dreams of 16 amazingly talented and brave street children from Caracol Favela in the Complexo da Penha, Rio de Janeiro, came true as they took on a team of international football legends in a once in a lifetime surprise football match at Qatar Olympic Committee’s Bayt Qatar in partnership with ‘Save the Dream’ and powered by Ooredoo.

Having been told by charity workers they would only travel a short distance to play a local team from neighbouring favela the youngsters were astonished on route to the game when they were joined suddenly on their team bus by Brazil’s World Cup winning captain, Cafu.

For the children it was the first of a long list of exciting surprises all captured on an inspiring film to be released by Qatar Olympic Committee. After boarding the bus Brazilian hero Cafu then took his new young friends to play against fellow all-stars Zico, Trezeguet, Karembeu, Dunga, Petković, Felipe, Assuncao, Lucio and E Marcelo Travares. The legends were all secretly waiting within the courtyard of Qatar’s Olympic home for Rio 2016, Casa Daros which had been transformed from a traditional Qatari souk into a football pitch overnight.

On a typical day these children face the challenge of living in one of the most dangerous favelas in Brazil known for its poverty, unemployment, drug trafficking, gunfights and violence. But for the children who all belong to the Safe Space Programme ran by charity Street Child United this was no ordinary day.

Organised by the Qatar Olympic Committee and supported by Ooredoo to raise awareness for ‘Save the Dream’, the official charity of the International Centre for Sport Security, the Ooredoo Legends Match was created to celebrate and spread the true spirit of the Olympics to all communities in Rio especially local children from disadvantaged areas. 

Shk Joaan QOC 2

Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said:

The QOC has come to Brazil for the Olympics with a simple ambition to share our passion for sport and our culture with the world. It is an ambition that has no boundaries, borders or limits so this specific event is very important to us as we want to reach out and engage all communities especially the next generation.’

‘In Brazil football connects to communities, creates lasting friendship and inspires people in a way that only sport can. We hope this experience will live in long in the memories of all who were part of this special occasion and help the children realise their dreams.’

In an event like no other the children thrived on the opportunity to showcase their immense skills to the legends and adoring crowds that gathered to watch the 3 on 3 mini tournament. As a further treat, again unknown to the youngsters, that crowd included their own friends and family. Qatar Olympic Committee had arranged additional transport to bring the children their own ‘supporters’ to Bayt Qatar to help the entire community savour the memorable moment and spread deeper the Olympic values.   

Two time World Cup winner and Brazilian legend Cafu added:

Surprising the kids on the bus was such an incredible moment. It was really touching to see the excitement in their eyes. I can only hope the children enjoyed the day as much as we did as being around people who share your love of the game and who have such energy to play is very rewarding. This is one day the children will never forget and I’m sure it’s what they’ll remember most about the Olympics taking place in Rio. I really hope it encourages them to follow their dreams. Every child should share that opportunity.’

Although there was no winner on the day apart from sport and the Olympic values one of the stars of the mini-tournament and the short film on the ‘dream day’ was 15 year Livia Cristina, said:

I live for football. For me it is the greatest thing in the world and one day I want to play for Brazil just like Marta. So this is very special but I can’t believe it just happened. My favourite moment was when Cafu got on the bus this afternoon. Nobody has ever done anything like that for us. We rarely even come into the city. I’m so glad I got some photos and autographs as no one will believe me back in Caracol. It’s been the best day of my life.’

After signing shirts, autographs and posing for selfies with the kids and their friends and family the event was brought to a close with a message of goodwill and support to Brazil’s greatest living sportsman Pele. Sadly the man who has inspired generations around the world has been sorely missed by Brazil during its Olympic moment. The gathering today of such footballing superstars alongside the local children was a poignant moment for the community reflect. Players and children were pictured alongside a simple message – ‘Get well soon Pele. We love you.’  

Muhammaed bin Henzab, President of the International Centre for Sport security (ICSS), expressed his pride for having the programme in Bayt Qatar in the Rio De Janerio Olympics 2016, hosted by Brazil. He expressed his sincere gratitude to HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, President of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), for his support to ‘Save the Dream’ initiative, and he also thanked Ooredoo, the official supporter of the programme. He complimented on the impressive high professional and organisational level, which reflected clearly the progress which Qatar has reached in every domain, especially in the field of sport.

The President of ICSS also added that the centre will continue through ‘Save the Dream’ to support global initiatives, which will contribute to protecting the children through sport. The new approach, adopted by the ICSS recently, has become now the main interest for the international community and the concerned international organisation.

At the successful conclusion of the dream day for youngsters, the Qatar Olympic Committee hospitality house in Botafogo was returned to the scene of a traditional Qatari souk awaiting its next visitors. Designed to share Qatar’s unique culture, its warm hospitality and passion for the Olympic Movement, Bayt Qatar has been a huge attraction for locals and is completely sold out for the remainder of the Olympics. 

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