zReportage - Amazing Stories from Around the World
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audio, stills, text and or video: Go to zReportage.com to see more - The World Cup may be over but passion for the game burns bright in the world's most dangerous slum. Petare, is a slum in Caracas Venezuela and home to more than half a million people, it is considered by the United Nations to be the most deadly slum in the world. It is plagued with poverty, drugs, a high murder rate and chronic teen pregnancy. To make matters worse Venezuela is currently suffering its worst economic crisis in modern history. When Ivan Torres and the other coaches formed their soccer schools, there were no grass fields to play on. Children come out of other small streets that shape the veins of the slum and begin following him. It's the hour they have been waiting for all day. 'Soccer,' Torres believes, 'is more than a game. It's a way of life that builds character and makes children into men and women.' Now 41, Torres started playing soccer when he was seven and continued playing throughout his life. He played in tournaments outside of Petare, the slum where he grew up, and won many trophies, but was unable to become a professional. He decided that the tools that soccer taught him would be the way prevent the children in his community from entering a life of crime or ending up dead before they even became men and women. So he created his own informal soccer school. The economic crisis began to affect the children too. Some trainers began to report children fainting on the soccer field due to lack of food and fewer children coming to practice due to their parents' inability to find food. Severe malnutrition and lack of food began affecting their ability to play soccer. Maria Gabriela Rivas, the sports psychologist of Pasion Petare, explains that through soccer children learn discipline, values, team work, respect, communication, socialization and self esteem. 'We want soccer to be a project for life,' Rivas says. 'We try to make sure children occupy their free time playing and practicing soccer.' Torres is adamant when he explains that the worst thing that can happen in Petare is to have a child with nothing to do. 'They will become easy prey for criminals looking to recruit,' he says. 'And as you know, Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We need to protect our children.' And we can do it with soccer.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - Trainer IVAN TORRES gives instructions to the children on how to play soccer. Torres organizes the children, both girls and boys, into several training exercises with strict discipline. He does not receive any salary to train the kids. He is driven by his love for soccer and his belief that, if these children did not have soccer, the alternative would be a life of crime and death.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - After eating, PAOLA CARRASCO, 10, brings her plate downstairs from the second floor at the cockfighting ring, also called Casa Cultural, and returns it to the community kitchen across the street. LUIS ALDANA, 11, waits for her. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - YOANGEL SANCHEZ, 11, demonstrates for his friends how he is the best at catching and holding the ball in his back, as the hot sun hits the soccer field at Villa Esperanza. The ball was provided by Pasion Petare and is used at every practice and game. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - ESTELITA GOMEZ, 7, trains in the afternoon heat during soccer practice. Trainer IVAN TORRES teaches her to run around and jump over obstacles at high speeds and encourages her to do better every time. Girls are not treated any differently than boys. She only has one pair of shoes for everything and never misses a practice. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - KEIBER SOLER, 12, rests during practice at the field in Villa Esperanza. His team, Villa Dorada, practices there 3 times a week. Keiber lost his eyesight in his left eye when he fell from a platform and damaged his optical nerve. He never mentions his disability and has managed to retrain with the help of his peers and Trainer Torres to play the game with the other children. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - Trainer Ivan Torres's son ALEXIS. 8, kicks the soccer ball to the practice field on his own. Children in Petare learn to manage on their own from an early age since parents work and then have to spend hours in long lines waiting to get food due to the crisis in the country.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - View of the street and the soccer field Villa Esperanza from 'la gallera' (the cockfighting ring) where the children eat the meal given after practice. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - PAOLA CARRAZCO, 10, jumps high during practice for the Villa Dorada team. The NGO Pasion Petare provided all the training supplies for the practices. Paola and her sister Nicole were abandoned by their family at a neighbor's home because the family was unable to feed them. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - JESUS URDANETA, 3, holds the soccer ball with the gloves he got from a volunteer. He loves soccer so much that he usually spends the entire day kicking the ball on the street. The other children and even the adults have a hard time taking the ball away from him.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - JESUS GALLARDO, 14 and RICARDO BARCARSEL, 6, wait in line after practice to receive a plate of food at the community kitchen, behind the soccer field in Petare, Venezuela. The NGO Pasion Petare gives meals to any child that comes to practice and it is the only meal that most of these children will receive all day.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - Trainer IVAN TORRES plays with the youngest children on the street before the practice begins on the field. Torres is respected as a community leader and is always trying to promote soccer as a tool to prevent delinquency.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
June 1, 2018 - Petare, Venezuela - Trainer IVAN TORRES and his two children, INDELIS, 14 and ALEXIS, 8 share the same bed and take time to rest after a long day of work and training.
© Belinda Soncini/ZUMA Wire
ZUMA Press Contributing Photographers

ZUMA Press Contributing Photographers and Newspapers partners have photographed the lead up to the Rio Olympics 2016. (Credit Image: © ZUMAPRESS.com):675



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