Touring footballers experience ‘life-changing’ trip to Brazil and Paraguay

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A group of young New Zealand footballers have completed a 20-day tour to Brazil and Paraguay, continuing a tradition that’s taken squads around the world for 25 years.

SoccerPlusNZ was founded in 1998 with the aim of playing and coaching football, and sharing a Christian message, through overseas tours.

Since then, touring groups have visited Czech Republic, Germany, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and South Africa.

Kim Beale.

Director Kim Beale says for many, the tours have been life-changing.

“We have been to prisons, drug rehabs, schools, academies, football clubs, orphanages, hospitals, retirement villages, churches and disabled homes. We’ve met famous footballers and mayors, and been on national TV and radio,” he says.

The latest SoccerPlusNZ tour took 14 footballers, aged 15-21, to South America where they spent 10 days in Brazil and 10 days in Paraguay.

“This experience was life-changing for the youngest team we have ever taken,” Beale says.

“Highlights included a visit to a prison in Brazil that had a major impact on the team. Seeing men whose lives were in ruin, and then turned around.

“The same could be said of the men we met at a drug rehab.

“Also in Brazil, we visited a football academy that has produced a number of future professional players. Maybe some of the young kids we played with will follow the pattern.”

Main photo: The New Zealand tour group with children from the Brazilian football academy.

“In Paraguay, we met the mayor of Campo 9, a town where the gap between rich and poor was so evident,” Beale said.

“The highlight was being at a football camp that was being run for the first time because of our visit and will now be run 2/3 times a year.”

Beale said members of the tour group had to raise their own funds to pay for the trip “but will all agree it was worth it.”

“For me, as director, seeing these young people experience something so life-impactful was reason enough to take them with me.”

Photo gallery

Images from the SoccerPlusNZ tour to South America. Please click on image to open to full size.

The SoccerPlusNZ group visited a football academy in Florianópolis, Brazil, run by a husband and wife who use football as a way to keep kids off the streets.

The academy operates in one of the poorest areas of the city.

Beale says SoccerPlusNZ is already planning their next overseas tour which will return to Brazil and also visit Argentina.

The New Zealanders visit a football academy in Florianópolis, Brazil.

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