My player is Gwendolyn Oxenham. She is a duke university soccer alumnus who documented herself and her boyfriend, Luke, on their journey around the world to find the spirit of soccer in a film called “Pelada.” They thought the best way to find the uniting factor of the sport of soccer would be to play pick up games with locals in many different places around the world.
The First stop they made was in Brazil and asked if they could join in the first pickup game that they saw available. Gwendolyn and Luke were placed on different teams and the rest of the players consisted of older men who had been playing since they were kids. Although the bodies of the other players may not have been as capable of what they once were it was clear to see that they all shared a passion for playing the game.
As Gwendolyn traveled though Brazil the heard of a young girl who the other kids called “Marta” because she was so good a soccer. She would play every day even if no one were there to play with her. The girl’s mother said “ It’s a sport, it’s a future, it’s what everyone wants, and its what everyone loves,” while talking with Gwendolyn about soccer for the documentary.
Continuing on in Brazil Gwendolyn and her documentary team took a trail to the end of the line and one of the worst slums in Brazil. Upon their arrival they were stopped by a police officer who warned then not to continue saying, “it’s your life not mine.” Despite this warning Gwendolyn continued on, determined to find a pick up game they could play in and after a few hours of walking they came across a large group of young people playing in a rocky, gravel, dusty lot and asked if they could play. Gwendolyn, Luke, and the locals played until the sun started to set. After the game the local players talked about trying to join a club in the city and not being allowed to by the clubs because they were all dismissed as thieves and vela kids. Therefore, the kids all played soccer in the rocky run down field every night for free and whoever wants to join can do so. In the end the locals walked Gwendolyn and Luke back to the train stop to make sure they were safe.
I think the craziest place for a pick up game that Gwendolyn and her team were able to find was in Bolivia. In Bolivia there is a prison, San Pedro Prison, where supposedly the best pick up game was played in the city. San Pedro Prison is not a normal prison, in San Pedro the inmates whole families lives there and the prison is run by the inmates. After paying the inmates to gain access, they were let in to play in this prison “anything goes” league game. The scene was incredible. Clouds of people surrounding the ally that the game took place in, children were even looking through the barred windows down at the game. The inmates here play everyday, all day, to pass the time.
Through this documentary Gwendolyn was looking for the spirit of soccer and ended up showing how much love there is for soccer. All over the world there are people playing and loving the game and that is the spirit of soccer.