By Ariane Costa Gomes, from Agência Mural*
Team created by resident has 10 years of history and around 65 players
On a dirt field with sparse patches of grass, a group of about 30 people get together every Saturday afternoon to play American football in Osasco, Greater São Paulo. Founded 10 years ago, Soldiers is the only team of its kind in the city. It came into being when, one day, César Augusto dos Santos, a 34-year-old local resident, decided to practice the sport, but realized that there was nowhere nearby to train. “I’ve always liked and wanted to play. As I really like the city I realized that we were capable of having a team so I created it”, tells the founder and chairman.
Soldiers currently has around 65 players. The training sessions run on Saturdays, from 12 noon until 3 p.m., on the Vila Osasco pitch, bringing together around 30 athletes each week. Crowned champions this year of the Galpão da Luz Bowl, a competition which takes place in Itaquera, in the eastern region of São Paulo’s capital, the team still faces distinctive challenges in the sport. “Doing something that we don’t learn to like when we are children in Brazil, to have a space to train, to be seen as athletes and to establish partnerships are some of the challenges”, said Santos.
According to the chairman, the support from the Osasco municipality is merely permission to use the pitch, a recorded document renewed every three months. On the ground, there are no streetlights or properly painted markings on the dry muddy floor. There is not enough grass to fill in the pitch.
Despite the hurdles, Soldiers has much to celebrate. In 2018, the team came in fourth place in the championship of the São Paulo Flag Federation of American Football (FEFASP). The flag is a type of sport that has less physical contact. The players use a belt with two flags (tape) attached to the sides. Instead of defeating the opponent, the defense team must get one of the “flags” from the player that has the ball in order to stop the tackle. For the team’s founder, another achievement has been to see Soldiers serve as a basis for players of other teams in São Paulo.
The 17-year-old veterinary student, Gabrielle Jesus Vital, is one of the three girls in the mixed-team who joined three-and-a-half years ago. “My cousin used to play with a friend and she invited me along. For being a unique sport, mainly for women, when I play I feel that I’m respected and treated equally by the other players”, she said.
One of the senior members, the 39-year-old Muay Thai teacher Marcio José Onorato, has been part of the team for 7 years and doesn’t think of stopping anytime soon. “What motivates me to play, as well as the chance to compete and train, is my family. My kids love seeing me playing”, said the Carapicuíba resident.
Over the next five years, the team plans to return to three categories. The female section was removed because the training suffered a three-hour reduction off the timetable for the use of the pitch. Soldiers remains with the Flag team and one of the plans is to start up a training school. In order to become part of Soldiers you need to get in touch with the team through social media or personally during the training sessions.
The opportunity to have experiences such as this one could be a lot closer than you think! Have a go taking part in Challenge Day. The campaign takes place every year on the last Wednesday of May. There are over 3 thousand cities that get involved, both in Brazil and in 13 countries of the American continent such as Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. Find out more!
*Series of reports produced by Agência Mural de Jornal das Periferias, whose mission is to minimize the existing gap of information and contribute to the deconstruction of stereotypes about the peripheries of Greater São Paulo.