Brazil is so in love with soccer that True Parents' new professional soccer team at New Hope East Garden is helping to improve True Parents image in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. It is also turning former enemies into friends.
The City of Jardim has adopted the New Hope East Garden--based team as its own. National and even international media reports have become more positive. And a number of the 33 cities to which True Parents has sent missionaries have become more receptive.
Although there had been talk of forming such a team since the establishment of New Hope East Garden in 1995, True Parents only approved the creation of the team December 2nd last year. The team, named Centro Esportivo Nova Esperança (CENE), or the New Hope Sports Center, was inaugurated March 15 this year at the Sports Club of Jardim City. Some 300 dignitaries and others attended the inauguration, including members of the Jardim City government, the mayor of the adjacent city of Guia Lopes, and representatives of the Soccer Federation of Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as members of the CENE administration and the staff and members of the team.
The President of the Soccer Federation welcomed the CENE soccer team during his speech. He also expressed his warm gratitude to True Parents for forming the team.
In his speech during the inauguration, Rev. Jeung Rho Yoon, the President of CENE and Director of Education at New Hope East Garden, predicted that CENE will create a more harmonious relationship between Brazil and other countries through inviting foreign soccer teams to play with the CENE team.
Rev. Cezar Zaduski, the Vice President of CENE, also mentioned that the purpose of CENE is to educate athletes to become ideal people who can bring joy to their families and to the society as well.
In the near future CENE intends to create basketball, volleyball and other sports teams in addition to the soccer team. These teams will be another important project of New Hope East Garden.
The manager of the soccer team is Paulo Telles, who is a former missionary to one of the 33 cities in Mato Grosso do Sul state. The coach, Nei Cezar, along with 26 players were all hired by CENE. Some of the players were selected from the 33 cities of Mato Grosso do Sul, and the rest were chosen from other states. All the players had already attended a two-day Divine Principle introductory workshop at New Hope East Garden. Among the players there are two Unification Church members.
True Parents directed that the CENE soccer team become the best team in Brazil in the future. In Mato Grosso do Sul there are 17 professional soccer teams. The CENE will need to win at least ten games a year in order to represent the state in national competition. So far, during its official games against other cities, CENE has had one win and one loss. The team's final games, if it qualifies, will be this coming July.
The CENE soccer team is reported to be helping open the way for people to understand the desire of the True Parents in Brazil. For many years Unificationists in Mato Grosso do Sul had faced severe persecution from certain individuals, from several churches and from local politicians. The Jardim City government had opposed the establishment of New Hope East Garden five years ago.
Also, last year a national TV station reported that in Jardim True Father was involved in a major drug-trafficking business within Brazil and with its neighboring countries. These and other accusations led people to fear the True Parents and to hesitate to participate in New Hope East Garden programs. When the CENE soccer team was formed, however, many people became more curious about True Parents' intentions concerning the New Hope East Garden project.
In Brazil, soccer is considered an essential part of life. In fact, the game is so popular that young people dream of becoming professional soccer players just as American young people dream of a career in basketball.
Last December Rev. M. K. Shin, the National Messiah of Bolivia, and a member of the staff of New Hope East Garden, gathered the missionaries from the 33 cities for a meeting. The unique agenda of the meeting was to ask the missionaries to bring professional soccer teams from each of the 33 cities to play a tournament sponsored by the Unifolha, a newspaper newly established by New Hope East Garden which is now being circulated in the 33 cities. The purpose of the tournament was to select top soccer players from each of the 33 cities in order to form a professional team.
Rev. Shin's direction to the missionaries at first, seemed like a mission impossible because of the persecution. But the love of soccer proved stronger than any negativity towards the Unification Church. Some teams from distant cities even agreed to stay at New Hope East Garden a day before the tournament. While at the farm they had the courage to attend a one-day Divine Principle workshop.
During their tournament at the Municipal Stadium of Jardim, January 9, 2000, the team from a city which is so negative that the missionary there couldn't get a telephone line, became the champion of the tournament. Their players returned home with positive testimonies about the New Hope East Garden project.
Brazil's national and local newspapers published largely positive articles about the CENE soccer team in which they mentioned the True Parents. Overseas La Tribune in France, Le Temps in Switzerland and other international newspapers also wrote about the CENE soccer team using the name of the True Parents.
Because of the success of this project, the CENE has become a way of witnessing to people, and people outside the Unification Church consider the CENE soccer team their own team. Because Jardim City has not had a professional soccer team for the past two years, it has adopted the CENE team as its own.
According to Rev. Yoon in a morning speech at New Hope East Garden, although the Unification Movement is investing a substantial amount of money in the soccer team, the team has become an effective tool for opening the hearts of the people. Success with the CENE project can contribute to the success of True Parents' visions, he said.
(The CENE administration requests internal and financial support for its project. Please send contributions to: NEW HOPE EAST GARDEN, CP 74, Jardim - MS, CEP 79240, Brasil. Tel/fax Number: +(5567) 209-1234. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Nelson Mira, is a 1996 UTS graduate sent as a missionary to one of the 33 cities in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil for church pioneering.