Exclusive Interview Part 2: Kely Nascimento-DeLuca on sharing her father Pelé’s love for football and helping change the women’s game

When Pelé is your father, people are inevitably going to assume certain things about you, and being a woman with a voice and something to say in an ostensibly male-dominated world (football), would probably mark you out too, in all fairness.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is ‘El Rey’s’ eldest daughter, born in Santos, Brazil, but firmly ensconced as an adopted New Yorker for many years. Her success is very much her own and she chooses her battles and her words carefully.

An activist for promoting women’s rights and equality in ‘the beautiful game,’ Kely also shares Pelé’s ethos of always wanting to do something positive, worthwhile and of value.

The Offside Rule were delighted to speak with her exclusively, read part one of our interview on her project to help tackle gender inequality in football. (Part 1)

In part two, Kely speaks to Jason Pettigrove about the Global Goals World Cup, how she can help bring changes to the women’s game and sharing her father’s love of football.

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In your opinion, what are the barriers that women in football still face in the game today?

Systemic misogyny.

What can be done to tackle it?

There are so many people who have been doing incredible work from inside and outside of national federations as well as inside FIFA. I won’t even pretend to be one of the people with the capacity or knowledge to attempt to fix this but there are so many brilliant people who have both – and have been trying to fix these problems for decades!

What I can do is make a beautiful, compelling film about the passion, drive and perseverance of women athletes who have and continue to devote their lives (often against the wishes of loved ones and entire communities and without the possibility of earning a living) to this sport just for the sheer joy of playing this beautiful game.

I can make a film that appeals to a broad audience and not just to football enthusiasts. I can follow this film up with a social project that is structured to build capacity to aid existing organisations in making some substantive strides towards equality through football.

And I will do this by asking the help of a massive and fierce, global community of kick-ass women. Basically, I will get as many people as possible around the world to join hands together push for some much-needed change. And most importantly, keep pushing until we see some! #timesup baby!

As a confirmed activist, would I be correct in thinking you’d like to help bring about certain changes within the game? 

I would like to help people who know what they are doing to bring about changes within the structure of the industry. I am not qualified to actually suggest changes or even to have any opinions on policy. What I can do is build a platform and create and sustain some momentum for those who are. This is a global community effort.

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How confident are you of achieving at least some of the goals you have in this regard?

100% confident! One of the most incredible things I have realised in the last two years is that there are people, some of whom I have known about and admired for years, who have literally been mobilised and waiting for a time like this. So, the way I see my place in this whole movement is as a mobiliser. The real work will be done and has been done by other people.

That brings me nicely onto the Global Goals World Cup (GGWC) of which you’re an ambassador. It’s a ground-breaking initiative for women’s football. For those who’ve never heard of it, why is it different from a ‘traditional’ World Cup?

It is one of the most brilliant organisations ever! I am so, deeply in love with it and the women who created it: Majken Gilmarten and Rikke Rønholt Albertsen. This tournament, run by Eir Soccer and UNDP, uses football to teach women to advocate for themselves.

To play, you put together a team of 5-8 women (they do not need to be great football players), your team then picks one of the UNDP’s 17 global goals and you play for that goal. You are judged on the goals you score, your ability to rev up the crowd and your plan to advocate for the goal you chose throughout the coming year. How you achieve the last part is up to you.

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If you are 16 you can do a class project and inform your school mates about your goal or you can use your social media platform to disseminate information. If you are so inclined and it is within your realm of possibility, you can arrange a protest or demonstration.

There really are no rules on how you advocate for this goal, the real goal is to be creative and see what you are comfortable with and capable of! It is about finding out what is important to you and learning how to talk about it. The aim is to have women learn, first hand, how empowering it is to be your own advocate.

GGWC describe themselves as:

“…an open women’s activist soccer tournament designed to expand the scope of a conventional sport event. We are comfortable at the intersection between sport, art, culture and activism. Our vision is to merge true global citizenship with the game of soccer.“

What could be more wonderful that that?!

What has the level of interest been like from women’s teams around the world?

Unbelievable interest followed by some truly awe-inspiring joy and sisterhood. And a crazy amount of support and enthusiasm from the men in these women’s lives. In Kenya, the player’s respective male family members arranged a drum circle that played throughout the entire tournament!

I can only see that this type of event would have a positive impact but have you or the tournament organisers been met with any sort of resistance? 

Majken and Rikke could better answer this question but I imagine that the greatest obstacle is always funding. But they do amazing work with what they have and the GGWC has enjoyed some very generous support from many organisations including the Danish government.

Is there likely to be a UK based tournament any time soon?

Yes! There is a plan for a tournament in England in 2021.

Has it been a help or a hindrance with such a famous Dad? 

Always a help when it comes to getting attention! What you have to be careful of is that people assume that you have your platform just because your father is famous (and they are correct to do so) and although they are curious to hear what will come out of your mouth they don’t really expect you to have anything interesting to say. You are basically that train wreck people can’t seem to look away from, or at best you are treated with an eye roll.

So, when you get your platform you better have something of substance to say and sound like you know what the hell you are talking about! But I understand that and respect it. If I am lucky enough to get attention for something I believe in without having to work as hard as the next person then I better show up for it. From those to whom much is given, much is expected…… right?

Finally, Pelé told me that he loves football of any description eg beach football, freestyle, futsal. For him, all forms of the sport remain ‘the beautiful game.’ He must be incredibly proud of your achievements?

I do hope so. I know he is excited that I will be telling the story of the Sereias, Santos FC is his heart and soul.

Mostly I hope that as he gets older he sees that all of the work he has done through this sport, primarily with children, will not end with him. I know how keenly aware he is of where he came from and how important this part of his life has been to him.

Interview by Jason Pettigrove (@jasonpettigrove)

 

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