By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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The hidden nature of the 2016 Rio Olympics has been uncovered with the Favela Champions - six teams of girls from different favelas in Rio came together to take part in a football tournament on the streets of Morro da Chatuba on 30 July.
Bringing together the youth from poor areas known for domestic violence, drug use and gun problems, the football project - Favela Street - was created in 2013 by former professional Dutch footballer Roxanne Hehakaija and Philip Veldhuis, in order to help children have some fun.
She said: “Football has made me into the woman that I am, it has given me confidence and pride.
“I want to pass this on to young people who desperately need it.”
In the hope that street football can be applied to socially challenging environments to help youngsters overcome their difficulties, the project prides itself with the slogan – ‘Creating a new generation of strong role models through the power of street football.'
Celebrating both women and the communities they live in, the project now has 80 individual players and the Favela Street Girls were chosen to represent Brazil during the Street Child World Cup in 2014 – a tournament they won.
French photographer and artist Sebastian Gil Miranda photographed the Favela Champions event this year, which was the first tournament organised by the project.
He said: “It had great success with lots of local public participation after hotly contested matches.
“The winner was a team made up of members of Favela Street, led by Jessica Medeiro.”
Jessica is one of the girls involved with the organisation and she recently wrote a letter to Roxanne Hehakaija in her gratitude for the event.
She said: “This project has changed my life.”
With men and boys now able to join as well, the favela team is hoping to expand quickly and take advantage of the positivity buzzing around the country from the Olympic games.
Sebastian Gil Miranda added: “My work is focused on social projects and humanitarian issues. Between the World Cup and the Olympic games I have come several times to Rio.
“I have worked on social projects with favelas linked with sports. I met Rocky (Roxanne Hehakaija), who created Favela Street, we shared a talk and there we agreed that I would come to register the project and the football championship.
“It is not just a football project – Rocky’s relationship with the girls is excellent and many consider her as a second mother.
“I like to rescue the positive side in difficult situations and contexts, and this is a project that really focuses on one axis and positive change.
“Among many medals spread at the Olympics, this group of girls are also true champions.”