NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports on this with producer Peter Breslow. GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do they hope it'll bring them? But even if I don't become a soccer player, I do want to be a happy person.
And we should say, he's the father of twin 15-year-old girls who you will also hear in this story. And I think it would be exciting to, one day, be able to, for example, meet your daughters in the United States, Peter. But for now, we did the next best thing and set up a Skype session.
The Brazilian player Marta is an international superstar. A girl who wants to play soccer faces teasing and taunting.
There was once a legal ban — from 1941 to 1979 — noting that "women will not be allowed to practice sports which are considered incompatible to their feminine nature." That law is no longer on the books. Brazil has a women's national team (although there's only room for a few elite players).
Girls can do other things in Brazil - play volleyball or dance ballet - but playing a boy's sport - that has consequences. GARCIA-NAVARRO: But as Lala and Milena will tell you, being a young girl in Rocinha is a lot different than the states. LALA: (Through interpreter) I have a friend who lives here in this neighborhood a little bit higher on the hill. BRESLOW: Milena also knows this girl, but she says most young women don't ever get the chance to play soccer.
Women's soccer was actually banned in Brazil for almost 40 years. MILENA: (Through interpreter) If there were more incentives at the earlier levels of school for girls to play, I think more would play, if girls weren't just given dolls and makeup to play with. MILENA: (Through interpreter) I hope it does bring me somewhere.
He's hopeful that the Law to Incentivize Sports will help get private companies to sponsor teams — and adds that new uniforms for girls are "changing to be more comfortable for women's bodies — before, the women wore men's uniforms. are curious about the Brazilian girls who take the risk to play the game.
"When I started playing I felt there was a lot of prejudice, they call me a macho girl, they called me lesbian, " says Lahis Maria Ramos Veras, 14, who goes by the nickname Lala. That's not going to stop her or her teammate, Milena Medeiros dos Santos, who's 16."The girls learn confidence, to deal with both defeats and victories," he says.They may start thinking about setting new goals for themselves: "It's an opportunity to dream [of] a different reality." But these girls don't have it easy, he notes: "The biggest stigma, which is still strong in Brazil, is that girls who play soccer are lesbians or will become lesbians by playing soccer.But it wasn't because the girls weren't good enough. Transcript KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: This month, we've been traveling around the world and talking to 15-year-old girls who are creating new opportunities for themselves, and sometimes they are pushing back against their cultures to do it. MILENA: (Through interpreter) Do you guys have boyfriends? GARCIA-NAVARRO: They said that they both did, and they asked whose boyfriend is in the house that made everybody get so bashful on your end? (LAUGHTER) BRESLOW: This is the first I'm finding this out. In Brazil, playing soccer when you're a girl is a subversive act. LALA: (Through interpreter) And I think sometimes, if she was playing soccer, would she be pregnant right now? And they want - and can he please come into the video chat?