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Football: England stars in Brazil outreach

England's World Cup stars on Monday reached out to local people in Brazil as they welcomed schoolchildren to a training session before visiting Rio's biggest slum.

RIO DE JANEIRO: England's World Cup stars on Monday reached out to local people in Brazil as they welcomed schoolchildren to a training session before visiting Rio's biggest slum.

The contrast between their luxury hotel and poorer areas of their host city is stark, with the hotel overlooking the picturesque Sao Conrado beach but also Rocinha, Rio's biggest favela.

England, who arrived Sunday, were keen to engage with local residents and welcomed more than 100 children, young people and local residents to their training base in the eastern Urca district.

Children from sports charity project Bola Pra Frente renewed a previous acquaintance with England manager Roy Hodgson, whom they had met last year before a friendly against Brazil at the Maracana.

The Football Association is helping to finance the construction of a new community and training centre in the city.

Also present were the winners of the girls title at the Street Child World Cup held in Rio earlier this year.

"Having last year witnessed first-hand the incredible impact sport, and in particular football, has on the lives of so many people in Rio?s local communities, we were delighted to be able to welcome so many children and inspiring individuals to our training session today," Hodgson said.

"Throughout our stay in Brazil we will look to engage with the communities we visit and develop a deeper understanding of this wonderful country," said Hodgson, adding he hoped England's stars could inspire the children.

In Rocinha, the players saw for themselves the wide gulf between the haves and have-nots in Rio, a city where ostentatious wealth is flaunted in well-heeled districts just a stone's throw from impoverished, crime-ridden slums.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere said the visit to Rocinha's sports complex, a haven for youngsters with its family clinic as well as sports tuition for a range of sports from football to boxing and judo, was an eye-opener.

"The visit to the Rocinha Sports Complex provided an incredible insight into the unique and powerful role sport plays in this country.

"With one of the poorest areas of the city situated just metres away, the complex provides an opportunity, through sport, for residents of the favela to transform and enrich their lives."

Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana agreed the players had enjoyed seeing more of their surroundings and being greeted by a swarm of enthusiastic youngsters.

"It was an honour for the players to be invited the centre today," said Lallana.

"From what we've seen and heard today, the Rocinha Sports Complex has helped to completely transform one of the poorest and potentially most violent areas of Rio" through the "simple pleasures of sport."

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