BATH, United Kingdom — One may know Richarlison de Andrade (known mononymously as Richarlison) as the eccentric dribbling diva whose flamboyant football skills and pigeon dance celebrations drum up no shortage of controversy in the Premier League. However, outside of his football fame, Richarlison’s charity work highlights his commitment to contributing to the fight against poverty. Whether he is dancing on the pitch or advocating for change on the global stage, Richarlison is not afraid of rustling a few feathers.
Rising Star of Nova Venécia
Richarlison hails from Nova Venécia, a municipality in the southeastern state of Espírito Santo. Unlike other favelas on Brazil’s impoverished eastern coast, Nova Venécia is not famed as a melting pot for dazzling rising football stars. Steel factories and petroleum fields fuel this sprawling favela, whose inhabitants are far from the floodlights of the Maracanã stadium.
As a child growing up in this favela, Richarlison would practice on the sandy beaches of Nova Venécia, using his sandals for goalposts. When Richarlison earned his first sponsorship from Nike, he immediately set the tone for the remainder of his professional career.
Richarlison took all the clothes and equipment that Nike had sent him to the poorest corners of Nova Venécia, giving every thread he had toiled for to children who could not afford clothes. Despite the fame that helped him rise out of poverty, Richarlison has not forgotten the impoverished residents of Nova Venécia.
Champion of the Favelas
Today, Richarlison is one of the most well-paid and successful football players for Tottenham Hotspur and the Brazilian national team. Despite this, Richarlison’s charity work remains an unyielding crusade. Richarlison holds annual charity football matches in his hometown of Nova Venécia, supporting the impoverished locals. In 2020, attendees and patrons of the event donated 6.4 tonnes of food to those who could not afford to eat.
Following the extreme flooding of 2020 that struck Nova Venécia, Richarlison donated 500 food parcels to the families of his hometown who could no longer afford to eat. Then, in 2019, during the COVID outbreak that devastated Brazil’s poorest communities, Richarlison donated 500 more food parcels to struggling families across Nova Venécia.
Following his COVID response, the University of São Paulo appointed Richarlison as its ambassador to raise awareness for COVID-related poverty. Richarlison also donates 10% of his income to the maintenance of Instituto Padre Roberto Lettieri in São Paulo: an open house that provides sustenance and shelter to cancer patients who cannot afford to provide for themselves.
Richarlison has also waded in on Brazilian education poverty, providing 50,000 reais ($10,000) to school children who could not afford to fly to Taiwan for the International Mathematical Olympiad for which they had qualified. He also gave all the children official Brazil Jerseys with his name and number printed on the back. Subsequently, the Brazilian government awarded Richarlison a commendation. Never missing an opportunity, he advocated for investment in public health and education during his acceptance speech.
Richarlison’s charity work also earned him the Professional Footballers Association Community Champion for the 2019-20 season award. After receiving the award he said, “From the beginning of my career, I set out to lend my voice to causes that are really important to me and to my community… I want to be remembered as someone who tried to change things around me for the better.”
A Voice for the Voiceless
From the minute Richarlison tasted the fruits of his labor, he has given to the poorest of his community. Undistracted by his colossal footballing success, Richarlison’s charity work is resolute. Most global citizens do not have a vast audience of eager ears and a wallet filled with millions, but can still draw inspiration from a man with humble beginnings, committed to addressing the widening poverty gap.
– David Smith
Photo: Wikimedia Commons