After 10 victories in 13 matches, Viva Rio’s football team, the Black Pearls FC, is leading its group with 31 points in the Series C of Rio Football Championship. First place in each group guarantees direct access to Series B, and now the team is two winning matches away from the dream of moving a step higher in the professional football.
The path of the Black Pearls so far is not obvious. It goes back to 2004, when Viva Rio was invited by the United Nations to assist in the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, based on its experience in the conflicted communities of Rio de Janeiro. Viva Rio went to Haiti to stay. We have been working for 13 years in the Caribbean country with social projects in diverse areas. Inaugurated in 2011 after, having the works been interrupted by the earthquake that devastated the country in January 2010, the Black Pearls club is undoubtedly the highlight in the portfolio.
The main reason behind the creation of the Black Pearls is to give young Haitians a chance at a career in football. In 2016 the team was invited to play the U-20 São Paulo Cup and Brazil’s top U-20 tournament. Meanwhile, Viva Rio established a new headquarters for the project in Paty do Alferes, a mountain town 120 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro.
The young people who stand out in Port-au-Prince are invited to come to Brazil, where the Black Pearls has become a professional club to pursue its mission of revealing talents. Two Haitians who stood out in the 2017 São Paulo Cup have signed a contract with Goiás, professional team from the central area of Brazil. In Rio’s professional C Series championship, the Black Pearls are playing with a team of both Haitians and Brazilians athletes, and levelling up to the B Series is considered a major step to raise visibility and resources to expand the project.
When it comes to the fans and supporters of the Black Pearls it is best to talk to Elcio Reis. A nurse at a healthcare facility managed by Viva Rio, he took on the mission of creating an organized fanbase for the Pearls, which he christened as “Peace Supporters”.
Elcio not only goes to all the matches and mobilizes family and co-workers to attend but also he has made several flags with the colors of the team. He also has a bass drum and a bugle that quickly land in the hands of the most active wing of the squad, made up of the youngest athletes in the Club.
“This project motivates me so much. I want to promote the union of the fans, make a peaceful group of supporters, to see families going to the fields to honor their team. The team is in a good phase and will soon be in the B Series hopefully”, said Elcio.