Three Lions stars join in with local youngsters at Bola Pra Frente project in Rio
By Nicholas Veevers in Rio
England stars Joe Hart, Theo Walcott, Jermain Defoe and Jack Rodwell got into the Brazilian spirit on Friday during a visit to the Bola Pra Frente project in Rio.
They were joined by Manager Roy Hodgson, FA Chairman David Bernstein, coach Gary Neville and goalkeeper coach Dave Watson.
Brazilian legend Bebeto was also there to meet the group and was presented with a signed England shirt by Hodgson as The FA also made a donation to support the project.
Started by Bebeto’s 1994 Brazil team-mate Jorginho and funded by Sport Relief, the institute is based in the Guadalupe area of northern Rio.
Offering opportunities to local youngsters to use football to improve their academic performance, it helps to keep them away from the perils of crime, violence and drugs.
And the England group witnessed just what an effect it is having on the local community, by taking part in some football activities on the pitch as well as a lesson in the classroom.
They then had chance to join in with some samba, as the group performed for them complete with drums, guitars and a singer.
Hart, Walcott, Rodwell and Defoe were straight into the drumming alongside the youngsters, with Hodgson and Bernstein soon joining in themselves.
Speaking about the trip, Spurs star Defoe said: “Coming here to see these kids is a good, humbling experience.
“A lot of the kids are suffering, so it’s a great facility where they can come and enjoy their football and also the education.
“It’s just fantastic to be a part of it, we really enjoyed it and the kids were smiling too so that’s the most important thing.”
Walcott added: “It’s fantastic to see and it’s part of why we’re here, to give something back and hopefully we’ll be here again next year to see how it’s improved.
“It’s great to see them using football to educate the kids and I definitely want to be here in Brazil again next year.”
The FA and Sport Relief are committed to working together around the world and in the UK in the build-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
England take on Brazil in the Maracana Stadium on Sunday, with the game kicking-off at 4pm local time and 8pm BST, live on ITV.