Brazilian youth 'factories' belie romantic image

Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:35am EDT
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By Toby Davis

RECIFE Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil is deadly serious about developing young footballers in a factory-like environment, shattering the romantic image of bare-footed youngsters honing their skills on ramshackle streets and sandy beaches.

Young players are the financial lifeblood of Brazilian clubs and the production line that grooms them into saleable assets starts at a tender age.

"It is designed to be a factory. At the big clubs in the south, the kids are professionals at 13," Henrique Schlithler, CEO of Brazil's Sport Club Do Recife, told Reuters.

Schlithler was describing the new training facilities he hopes will produce a stream of talented players to be nurtured and then sold off to fund their continued growth.

Standing in the club's storied trophy room, where each piece of silverware seems to have its own intriguing tale, Schlithler paints a picture of the hard economics that underpin youth development in the country of the World Cup hosts.

It is incongruous with the mythical image of children knocking about on the streets, freely learning skills that will one day wow the world.

"They are paid 2,000 euros a month, their fathers are given jobs and their families apartments. You hear stories of people listing their profession as 'athlete's father'," Schlithler said.

"At this club we only give scholarships and selling the really young players is not part of our culture."   Continued...

A boy plays soccer in a park in Porto Alegre June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Marko Djurica