The New Zealand Women’s Football side kicked off the Olympic Team’s social outreach partnership today, as the first Kiwi athletes to visit Rio’s Mangueira community.
Joined by Chef de Mission Rob Waddell and several New Zealand team personnel, the players were warmly welcomed into the local community by kids and young community leaders performing capoeira - a traditional Brazilian martial art.
After initially being met by a small group of kids, the players were led into the community gymnasium to join in the capoeira and lead a range of soccer skills and drills sessions.
Team member Betsy Hassett enjoyed the chance to get out and see the bigger picture of Rio de Janeiro and appreciated the opportunity to engage with the local Mangueira community.
“It makes you really appreciate where we come from and how far we’ve got with our sport and how lucky we are to be involved [in the Olympic Games],” she said.
“It was just great to get out amongst the kids and they were so excited to see us which was really cool.”
While the celebrations and interaction with the kids was awesome, the purpose of the New Zealand Team visits reaches further than simply meeting with the community and playing sport.
Rob Waddell led the team which began looking into social opportunities back in 2015 and says the partnership is about more than just visiting a favela.
“You go back about a year ago, we came here and said ‘what sort of things will make a difference?’ and it was clothes, shoes and food, you know all pretty basic things.
“We’ve been really fortunate in that a lot of our sponsors have come on board. We’ve got bikes from Avanti, we’ve got a whole lot of apparel from PEAK, and rowing machines, just as a start. So as we go through these different visits we’re looking forward to giving that equipment to a group of kids who in reality don’t have very much at all,” said Waddell.
With around 6 visits scheduled for the New Zealand Team to take part in, the Mangueira partnership and team visits are set to inspire both the athletes and the local community over the next three weeks.
“Each sport has a different thing to share with the community. Today was wonderful, because it’s such a great way to start with soccer in Brazil,” said Waddell.
“I was worried they might be teaching us a thing or two. There were kids with some great skills out there!
“We’ve got rugby coming, rowing, hockey, and swimming, most of our sports are going to come along at some stage. There’s a chance for all our athletes to get involved and give back and, as we saw today, we benefit greatly from it as well.”
Katie Duncan, another player from the women’s side to visit Mangueira, said the opportunity to head out on the trip was great and became something that developed into more than she’d first expected.
“There’s another world out there that we haven’t really been exposed to, other than what we’ve seen on TV and stuff.
“It does make you stop and think, and while it’s awesome that we’re able to be here on the world stage, if you do inspire kids and people along the way then that’s just kind of like a bonus,” said Duncan.
The Mangueira visit wrapped up the girl’s pre-competition stint in Rio, having been living in the Olympic Village since July 24. Tomorrow the team fly out to Belo Horizonte where they kick off their Olympic campaign against the USA on August 3.Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Betsy Hassett Katie Duncan Football