chapter
15 Pages

Introduction

The biography of Brazilian football (soccer) star Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known worldwide as Pelé, is indicative of the advantages professional sport may bring to individuals who grow up in poverty, as well as to disadvantaged communities where sport may provide an important form of organized social activity, identity and excitement. For many poor young people, sport presents “the prospect of escape into a better world, at least a lift out of the direct poverty” (Walvin 1995: 122). The sporting success of athletes from impoverished backgrounds fuels the imagination of young people who grow up in similar conditions and encourages them to aspire to building a better future through sport. Quite apart from the real possibilities of a professional career and the upward social mobility that it offers, however, sport tends to be seen by young males in particular as a means to go abroad and escape the diffi cult life conditions experienced at home (e.g. Poli 2010).