Soccer as an Escape in Brazilian Favelas

By | December 11, 2013

Favela and ‘Canary Soccer Shirts’
Photography: Brazil Contemporary Rotterdam/Wikimedia Commons


With all of the recent conversation about favela destruction, drug gang violence, and a supposed World Cup of Terror in the running up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, one very unexpected Dutch immigrant is providing a ray of hope to many of the impoverished children in the favelas, through the game of football.


Nanko van Buuren, a psychiatrist by trade, came to Brazil in 1987, aiming to lift children away from poverty and organized crime [1]. Since founding IBISS, the Brazilian institute for innovation and social health care about 20 years ago, he has helped over 4,000 children in 68 different favela communities [1]. Van Buuren is using football to change the culture of violence in these favelas, while also directly increasing school attendance and homicide rates in certain areas [1].


Read here to learn more about how the beautiful game can connect people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and social statures and save the lives of hundreds of impoverished children:


This is a truly beautiful story, especially in the months before the World Cup, about how soccer unifies us all. Enjoy.



[1] Smith, Ben. “Confederations Cup: Rio De Janeiro Slums Offered Rebirth.” BBC Sports. BBC, 21 June 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2013. <>.

2 thoughts on “Soccer as an Escape in Brazilian Favelas

  1. June Zhang

    I really enjoyed that article. I think it is sometimes easy to overlook the poverty and adversity much of Brazil is facing especially during a time like the World Cup. FIFA at times can “glamorize” the World Cup with it’s shiny new stadiums and infrastructure, making Brazil seem picture perfect in some sense. I think this story really highlights the true lives of people who actually live in Brazil and how soccer has really changed their outlook.


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