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World Cup: Brazilian children dream of becoming the next star

Whilst a World Cup trip to the stadium in nearby Brasilia remains an unaffordable dream for the children of Planaltina, they are not giving up on the longer running dream of becoming Brazil's next soccer star.

BRAZIL: Jefferson Matteus, better known as "Biro Biro" by his teammates in the Planaltina youth soccer club, is one of thousands of Brazilian children dreaming of becoming the next Neymar.

Indeed, the club where he trains three times a week, located 40 minutes drive from the nation's capital Brasilia, has produced seven international players, including former Brazil captain, Lucio, and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Sandro.

Lucio was a member of the Brazil team that won the 2002 World Cup and fronted FIFA's pre-World Cup anti-discrimination campaign this year.

He is one of the budding talents discovered by coach, Jose Joaquim da Rosa, better known as "Ze Vasco".

Ze Vasco got hooked on soccer aged 16 but recognised he did not have what it takes to go all the way, so turned his energies to nurturing new talents, which he has done for the last 30 years.

These days, he coaches about 150 boys aged 5 to 17 every week.

To spot if a child has potential or not it is essential to find the best place for him in the team, Ze Vasco said.

A central defender will need physical strength and the ability to catch the ball, a midfielder will need to be fast and capable of keeping the ball, and a forward, of course, needs to know how to score goals.

Ze Vasco also explained that the children come from families which often struggle to make both ends meet, and a visit to a World Cup match in the nearby stadium in Brasilia remains a distant dream.

"What is the dream of the kids? To be in the stadium, to watch a game, but how will they buy the tickets? They can't buy tickets; tickets are very expensive you see," he said.

Ze Vasco, who is officially employed as a maintenance agent in the nearby stadium, explained that he is not paid for coaching children.

He said the government should do more to help the next generation of athletes.

"We don't have a government which comes along and says, 'We will help the kids, we will get the kids out of school to take them watch a game'. Unfortunately the government hasn't helped anyone in this way... I think the government should give away some tickets for the youth schools, for the kids who live in the state to go and see the game," said Ze Vasco.

Nevertheless, the children's dreams stretch beyond the nearby stadium, and their sights go unscathed.

"To play in Flamengo, then play in Barcelona, then play a World Cup for Brazil," Biro Biro said, imagining his future ahead, after having already spent two years training with Sao Paolo's prestigious Santos youth club.

His 13-year old teammate, Gustavo Martines, also dreams of playing for Barcelona, both in order to kick amongst the greats and to be able to support his family.

"My dream is to be a soccer player and help my family, buy a house for my mum," said Martines.

Willing on the young players, their families are often seen at the sidelines.

One player's mother, Cristiane Moreira, is very supportive of her son and tries to attend as many training sessions as possible.

"He has to try and see if that is what he really wants," she said, "And if it isn't what he really likes... but he is very dedicated, and I think he will become a good player. He won't be a star like Neymar, but then again who knows? Only God knows these things."

Even if Barcelona is not what God or the international football associations have in store for these young players, Ze Vasco believes that soccer teachers them important discipline and helps to keep them on the right track.

"Here in our city there are few options for the kids," he said, "Or they play football or they get involved in crime. Here, lots of children get involved in crime because they don't have anything to do. Through football you can get the message through to the kids that they need to take things seriously, that they have to go to bed at a certain time, get home at a good time, everything they need to take care of."

Whilst the boys are still a long way from the World Cup stage, Ze Vasco shows no tolerance of funky haircuts or long hair, and aims to keep the boys focused by telling them that they will not play the Sunday tournaments if they have been out late the night before.

Showing a great deal of dedication himself, Ze Vasco aims to inspire the boys and show them that natural skills, strong will, motivation, discipline and a lot of work are what pave a long road ahead for future champions.

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