The deaths of 10 teenagers in a fire at Brazil’s Flamengo football club, one of Brazil’s biggest and best-known clubs internationally, highlighted the precarious conditions many youngsters face as they chase the dream of becoming professional footballers.
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The boys, all aged between 14 and 16, were killed when a fire swept through the Flamengo training center on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro early Friday morning. Three others were injured, one seriously.
Although Brazilian clubs are famous for producing some of the world’s greatest players, they have been criticized for the lack of care and security they provide their young charges.
Authorities have cited clubs in recent years for poor hygiene, inadequate nutrition and a lack of education and social care for youth players.
Neymar Jr., Brazil’s star player shared Flamengo’s logo on Twitter with the message, "My sentiments."
Image translation: Flamengo is in mourning
The area destroyed by the blaze was not supposed to house players, the Rio de Janeiro mayor’s office said Friday.
The area where the lodgings were built was registered as a car park and the city served Flamengo about 30 notices warning them they did not have proper permission and ordered them to close the dormitory in October 2017.
“The mayor’s office is saddened that its notifications were not observed,” said Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella.
He did not say why the city did not close the facility after the notices were ignored.
Brazil football legend Pele wrote on Twitter, “My day started with the news about the fire in the CT of @ Flamengo - a place where young people pursue their dreams. It's a very sad day for Brazilian football.”
“At one club I was at we had to wait for the pros to eat and we got what was left and if there was nothing then it was tough luck,” Romario Reginaldo Alves, a 24-year old forward who spent time at the same Flamengo training ground.
The boys who died were youth players staying at a training center called the Ninho do Urubu or Vulture’s Nest after the club’s symbolic bird.
Flamengo CEO Reinaldo Belotti said Saturday that the fire was caused by energy spikes that ignited an air conditioning unit.
One of the 13 young players to escape the blaze had previously said he fled the building after waking up and seeing his air conditioning unit on fire.