Drika explains how football transformed her life.
Drika’s journey from a small village in northern Brazil as a child to representing her country at the World Cup.
Drika was the leader of Team Brazil in the 2014 Street Child United World Cup glory. Serra Caida is a village in Sergipe, in the northern part of Brazil. She grew up in a tiny house with her grandparents.
She tells the story of how football inspired and led her to a new future.
When I was seven years old, I began playing football with my aunts & cousins. It was all I could do.
To have fun, I just woke up and played soccer. I had nothing else to do in my life.
When I was 13 years old, my grandmother died. I moved to Rio. I moved in with my stepfather and mother. Because I wasn’t raised by my mother and I don’t recall the last time I saw her, we didn’t have a mother-daughter bond.
Although life was hard in the village, I was happy. I felt free. I was able to go out with my friends and play on the streets. Things changed after I moved to Rio. It was quite different. It was very different. I wasn’t allowed to have my freedom. There were big guns, and I witnessed a lot of violence.
Football was again the only thing that made Rio feel at home. While I was playing, I didn’t think about all the violence I had seen. I wanted to play football. It could be all you need.
My mother moved me in when I was a teenager. I tried to adjust. Although we got along well, I was not a fan of my stepfather.
He kicked me out of my house once because I refused money I had earned from the government apprenticeship program. After eight months, I was forced to leave the man I was seeing and move in with him. I was in a very difficult situation and needed to decide where to go. This is how I reached out to my aunt and moved in with her.
You have to be able to adapt to different houses. For example, you can’t talk or wait for others to eat.
You keep thinking, “If you do anything wrong, they’ll kick you out.”
I was 16 years old when I was playing football with my friends. A Dutch man approached me and asked if he wanted me to join his team.
My friends and I would travel to wherever football was. Then, things began to change. Favela Street Girls was founded by him and he promised that they would participate in a World Cup.
As the years passed, I was promoted to captain and, after the Street Child World Cup 2014, became a coach.
It’s a dream come true
Because I hailed from a small village, I didn’t expect to be representing my country at the world cup. It was a dream come true for me because I always wanted to play football for Brazil.
Although it wasn’t an official team, I felt that it was okay. I was just playing football at the time and that was my moment. It was wonderful to meet people with similar backgrounds at the world cup. We communicated using signs and hand movements, even though no one spoke English. It was amazing to make new friends.
From that point onwards I realized I could do more than I was doing at the time.
Because it has changed my life, I consider the sport to be a life-changing experience for them [street children who take up football]. I imagined I would be an average girl in the community, having a child at 15 or 16 years old, marrying, and then staying there.
After the world cup, I met people all over the globe and it opened my eyes to see that I had potential. Because the world was so vast, why should I limit myself to my local community?
I completed an internship in the United States. I attended High School for two years and learned English. After that, I moved to England to learn English. I’m currently studying physical education. In the future, I want to own my gym and start my own business. Because they are my family, I want to continue working with them.
It dawned on me that I might be a strong woman and that even though I didn’t have much money, I could still do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. The world cup and football gave me an identity and transformed my life.
Football was the platform that allowed me to escape the future I imagined and hoped for as a child growing up in that community.
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