The Alunorte Rain Forest soccer team from Brazil has a lot to celebrate while participating in the Norway Cup youth tournament in Oslo July 31-August 6.
The Alunorte Rain Forest team, sponsored by Hydro’s alumina refinery Alunorte, has been sending boys’ teams to the Norway Cup for 10 years now.
This year is special – it is the first year a girls’ team will participate. The girls’ team is getting a boost from a coach who comes from Brazil’s national soccer team and who just participated in the Women’s Soccer World Cup.
Not just soccer
The Alunorte Rain Forest program isn’t just about soccer. The team members must maintain high academic standards to qualify.
The students come from Barcarena, about 40 kilometers from Belem, which is the state capital of Pará.
The program’s slogan is “Bola pra Frente, Educação pra Gente” – Ahead with the ball and education for us. It was developed a decade ago by Alunorte with support from Hydro and the partnership of the Educational Department of the City of Barcarena.
All the 36 players that compose the Alunorte Rain Forest (ARF) teams are students from the local schools. The boys are between 14 to 17 years old, while the girls are from 15 to 20.
Their training sessions and preparations for the trip started in March. As the Norway Cup games got closer, the group routine became more intense, with trainings, practice games, visits to the local communities, socio-educational workshops, English classes and cultural learning about the country to be visited.
A dream coming true
To the students, the trip to Norway is a dream coming true. They are students with modest backgrounds and most of them have never traveled by plane or left the state of Pará.
Almost all the participants attend public schools and the furthest trip they ever took was to Belem in order to get the necessary documents for the trip.
“Many youngsters make attempts to join the program, start to have better behavior, to study harder to get a better performance in school and also to practice more soccer,” says Alberto Martins Müller, the project coordinator and coach of the boys’ team. (The teams from Pará are the only representatives from the Amazon Region in Norway Cup.)
The girls’ team was first organized in the state of Pará in 2009. Miraildes Maciel Mota, who will coach the girls’ team, is known as “Formiga” (the ant). Formiga lives in Pará and had already participated of the “Bola pra Frente” project, helping on the selection of the first girls’ team.
The player is an inspiration for the students who dream of becoming successful on the field. “We will work hard on the technical aspects, improving the speed and the physical aspects,” Formiga says.
According to the coach, the goal is to achieve the best result possible on the international tournament: “I don’t know if we will become the champions, but we are working with this purpose.”
During the final stage of preparation, the training sessions become more frequent. Among the athletes, the expectation is to win and bring the Cup for the Amazon Region for the first time. Speed will be the “weapon” used by the Brazilian teams to succeed on the tournament.
Says Müller: “At the Norway Cup, the teams focus a lot on the defense, so our strategy will be to strike very fast.”