By Amanda Kamanchek Lemos and Luana Lila
“To play well you’ve got to eat properly.” This was Francisca do Nascimento’s reaction on the phone in Marabá when she heard her son, then aged 15, say that there wasn’t enough food in the “hostel” set up by soccer “scout” Ronildo Borges de Souza.
Francisca’s son was among 12 youngsters who came from the northern Amazon state of Pará to Santos in the south of Brazil. The boys traveled far, on the slender reed of a big dream: the promise of getting to play in the under-15 and under-17 championships for Portuguesa Santista, a century-old soccer team from the SÃ£o Paulo coast, currently in the second division of the SÃ£o Paulo league.
The twelve boys, all from poor families, were recruited by Ronildo, also from Pará, whom the parents had entrusted to negotiate any sorts of contracts on behalf of the boys. His qualification for the task: a “trainer” diploma from the Union of Professional Football Trainers of the State of SÃ£o Paulo, obtained after a 36-hour theory course.