Interview with Tommy Nielsen, Founder of Karanba

Interview with Tommy Nielsen, Founder of Karanba
After a serious knee injury in 2004 and with an anticipated end of career looking likely, the Norwegian football player Tommy Nilsen travelled to Rio de Janeiro looking for inspiration and to find a new path for his life. When he arrived, he was shocked by the poverty and social inequality of the local people, shock which turned into a strong desire to contribute to somehow improving the reality of these people’s lives.

The Karanba project was founded in 2006 with the goal of providing young people and children from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas with opportunities to change their lives, using football as an instrument. It aims to become a reference on how grassroots football, in combination with education, can be used to help developing marginalized communities in Brazil.

After some time operating between Tommy’s apartment and a small office in the area of Copacabana, Karanba moved to establish its own headquarters. The chosen locale was the city of São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro, whose number of inhabitants exceeds 1 million and which faces problematic social issues such as violence and crime, a high unemployment rate and very low success rate of high school graduates.

Since then, Karanba has struggled daily to give underprivileged young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods an alternative to drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime and poverty. It has been remarkably successful in this mission. Believing that it is through education and social inclusion that young people can be trained so that one day they are able to find a job which will lead them to a decent life, Karanba uses football in its favor, not only training future professional...

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