Soccer As a Strategy to Overcome Extreme Poverty? Social Mobility and Sport in Brazil

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Fernando BURGOS, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil
Carlos Heller MANDEL, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil
Sport has been pointed out for many years as a factor of social development for individuals or communities (Loy, 1969; Eisen and Turner, 1992; Coalter, Allison and Taylor, 2000; Collins & Kay, 2002; Kay, 2009; and others). Some researchers analyze this mobility potential more critically (Frey & Eitzen, 1991; Eitzen,2009; Black, 2010; Spaaij, 2013 and others). In Brazil, the potential of sport in human, social and economic development are constantly exalted, especially in soccer.. Millionaire salaries and fame, however, are only reality for a minority of soccer players who effectively experimented vertical social mobility, namely upward mobility by Lipset & Bendix (1992). In a context that places Brazil as the third worst Gini Index in Latin America and the Caribbean (OXFAM, 2017) - the article analyzes whether football can remove children from extreme poverty, as often touted. Through a case study in the Santos Football Club - home of extraordinary players like Pele and, more recently, Neymar – we’ve conducted semi-structured interviews with youth academy’s staff. Also, we’ve observed the so-called "trials" in which children and adolescents are chosen to pursue a career in the club and interviewed some mothers of young candidates. The results show that despite the common financial difficulties of many families, they can not be characterized as being in extreme poverty, but as a lower middle class. In addition, families who live far from the city, in general, receive support from relatives, friends or local businesses in order to facilitate participation in these “trials”, which shows some kind of social safety net. Decisively, we can not point out that Brazilian football is a common overcome strategy for extreme poverty, but there is no doubt that the dream of upward mobility of many poor families goes through crowded stadium and a lot of goals.