The two competitions brought together hundreds of young people from across the country to play Free fire, with the competition broadcast on Twitch and, in the case of the Favelas Bowl, the final was broadcast on one of Brazil’s largest cable TV channels, SporTV. The goal of CUFA was to give visibility to players, hand out prizes and even make it easier for the best players to enter professional teams – and, as happened to Dexter, to change their lives.
“The idea of the championship was sensational, and when I saw it I really wanted to participate,” said Bruno Santos from São Paulo. He is the manager of the Brazilian Free fire team for the American professional games organization Team Liquid and was the commentator of the Favelas Cup. “It was a privilege.”
“The competition’s mission is to reach as many communities as possible in Brazil, offering esports championships and encouraging children and adolescents to enter the world of technology and innovation,” said Deylanne Nayara, hostess of the Favelas Cup, who is also a streamer. The competition reached “a hundred favelas across the country, with 200 registered teams and a total of 800 players. From these favelas, the competition made a draw to select the 12 teams that ultimately competed.
Although not from the favela, as a black woman, Nayara faced her fair share of challenges. “Being a woman in a sexist setting is already exhausting and being so black… we are still at the base of the social pyramid and still have to prove our worth,” she says.
After the competitions, Molinari signed the MVP of the Favelas Cup, Kaique Gabriel Machado, at Zero GRavity. As for his SI teammates, all from São Paulo, they won contracts to compete for Zero Gravity in the league’s third division.
Two players from the Favelas Bowl winning team, from the Divinéia favela, in the state of Paraná, have also been hired by professional teams. Pedro Paulo “Diniz.av” Alves was signed by the Brazilian team Sintonia and Gustavo “Gusta.tx” Nunes, MVP of the final, was signed by Team NewX Gaming. They will both play in the National Second Division of the Free Fire League.
Athayde says that “the biggest impact in the lives of these kids, besides the financial gain for those who finished first, has been the empowerment of esports athletes. Previously, only football players were valued – they were told that football could guarantee them a future. “Now they see opportunities [in esports] and made itself recognized in the favela, the favela recognized how they played and where they could go.
Why Free fire?
Free fire, a battle royale style game, was chosen for both competitions because it is free and works on any Android or Apple phone. It doesn’t require advanced equipment, which makes it the perfect game for favela gamers, according to Team Liquid’s Free Fire manager Bruno Santos.
Worldwide, Free fire more than 450 million downloads and 80 million active users per day, and in Brazil it was the most downloaded match in 2020. “Free fire is the most played game in Brazil, mainly in the favelas, ”says Athayde.
Since it doesn’t require advanced equipment, there aren’t any noticeable differences between the favela and the asphalt player, Santos says. In July of last year, the Pro League Free fire final, the best Brazilian competition, attracted a large audience with a peak of 800,000 people watching simultaneously, one of the nation’s largest YouTube audiences for a live event.
Amid the pandemic and social isolation, the number of esports fans and athletes has grown and those living in the favela are struggling for space and recognition – sometimes even members of their own families. “It was very difficult for me to get my parents’ approval to become a streamer because they thought I had to study, take classes, and work,” Dexter says.