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Ponte preta S21 - Futsal Down: Attitude and opportunity overcome prejudice

Updated: Jan 23

As Jesus was walking, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but the works of God must be revealed in him." - John 9:1-3.

João Pedro, his father Marcos Ribolli, José Antonio de Oliveira, Maurício Carvalho and his son Rafael.

From the dream of seeing their children and their friends playing the sport they loved so much, Maurício Carvalho and Marcos Ribolli from Campinas, SP, teamed up with José Antônio de Oliveira, a physical education teacher and physiotherapist specializing in down syndrome, to create a futsal team.

The year was 2015 and although they did some one-off actions with supporters, the project was only made official in 2019, when the Campinas S21 team became Ponte Preta S21, the first grassroots down futsal team in Brazil.

Today, more than 80 athletes with down syndrome take part in the project, which has a men's and a women's team that caters for children from the age of 4, young people and adults, respecting the individuality of each athlete. It has also inspired the creation of other downs futsal teams throughout Brazil.

At Ponte Preta S21, they don't talk about obstacles, they prefer to call it resistance and the biggest one, according to Maurício Carvalho, is some parents of children and young people with this genetic condition, who tend to focus only on the difficulties and forget about their children's full potential.

João takes part in training at S21 and his mother, Elaine, is always there to encourage him.

And for this potential to be developed, parents need to be committed to taking their children to training, once, twice, as many times a week as necessary. As well as being there to support their children.

This participation makes all the difference, both for the athletes and for the families, who get to experience everything their children can achieve through playing sport.

There are many benefits for athletes! They become more independent, more responsible, disciplined and faster. Gains that all athletes make, regardless of their genetic condition. For the project's creators, it is important to emphasize that "it's not a question of overcoming, because they're all very capable. These children and young people just needed an opportunity to learn and the earlier they start, the better!"

Although the aim of the project is primarily the development and social inclusion of athletes, the team from Campinas, SP, is also making history in the competitions it participates in and has already accumulated titles and award-winning players, becoming one of the big names among Brazil's down futsal teams. Ponte Preta S21 won the 2023 Brazil Cup.

But of all the achievements that the project has made, the greatest can be seen in the training sessions and games: - It's the joy, resourcefulness and drive with which the athletes take part in the proposed activities, showing that with attitude and opportunity, it's possible to circumvent prejudice!

And for the project to continue to promote inclusion, as it has done so successfully, the involvement of families is indispensable. When parents realize how many benefits futsal brings to their children, they really give of themselves in voluntary actions and participation. And the more parents spread the word about the project to their circle of friends, the more it comes back in the form of commitment, partnership and new supporters.

"Our project is an action of collective construction and volunteering aimed at the human development of our athletes. In this way, we have become one big family... The Ponte Preta S21 family, says Maurício Carvalho."

In 2024, ABMTHS joins this family, hoping that the mission of Ponte Preta S21 can be united with that of the Association, bringing the real possibility of inclusion to athletes with Down syndrome who do not have access to activities like this due to financial conditions, making the S21 family grow even more.

The Sieh brothers with the Ponte Preta S21 family

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