Only FIFA World Cup champions and heads of state are allowed to touch the solid-gold symbol of world football supremacy. But last fall, FIFA granted a one-time exception and made the impossible possible for a very deserving group of players: Brazil's National Team for 5-a-side visually disabled football.
Coca-Cola and FIFA surprised the team -- which has won three consecutive IBSA (International Blind Sports Federation) World Blind
Football Championships and Paralympic Games gold medals -- in
September by bringing the FIFA World Cup trophy to their training facility near
Rio de Janeiro.
“Just as Brazil is a very diverse and inclusive
Coca-Cola is the world’s most democratic drink, we believe the World Cup
belongs to everyone,” said David Campbell, global content director,
Coca-Cola. “With this film, we're applying the innocent and surprising
of ‘Where Will Happiness Strike Next’ and bringing the FIFA World Cup
trophy to people and communities who embody and positive ideals of
Campbell continues, "As we all know, visually disabled people experience the world through touch, so we partnered with FIFA to grant an exception to the FIFA World Cup trophy regulations so these players might ‘see’ the trophy with their own hands for the first time.”
The 3-minute video shows the players approaching the trophy in a single-file line with their hands on the shoulders of the teammate in front of him.
“That magical moment you see on camera is authentic,” Campbell adds. “They were genuinely surprised… they didn’t know what was in front of them. It was incredibly moving to see the expressions on their faces go from excitement, to realization, to disbelief, to sheer joy. There were very few dry eyes on the set that day.”
Ricardo Alves (far left) and his teammates touch the FIFA World Cup trophy.
The film features Ricardo Alves, who could see for the first six years of his life before his world suddenly went dark. Despite losing his sight, he never lost hope.
“When I told people I dreamed of being a professional
football player, they laughed at me and said it was impossible for a blind guy
to play football. The difficulties of life are there not
to prevent you from doing things, but to be overcome,” said the 24-year-old midfielder, who lives in Porto
Alves did just that, honing his skills and eventually joining a football league with fellow blind players. He now captains Brazil’s world-champion team and recently was named the sport’s top player. “When I discovered blind football, it was as if I’d been given a second chance,” he says.
Pulling off the stunt -- and keeping it under wraps -- wasn’t easy. FIFA and Coca-Cola had to conduct thorough security sweeps in advance without becoming the talk of the town, and the film crew needed to both execute a detailed plan and be prepared to pivot in real time during the two-day shoot.
“You have to be nimble and roll with it on projects like this one,” says John Carey, who directed the spot.
Carey, whose previous work includes Dove’s award-winning “Real Beauty Sketches, is known for fusing cinematic artistry with the authenticity and emotional heft of documentary filmmaking. He said Alves’ story of resilience and against-all-odds optimism made him the perfect protagonist.
“I want my work to have the visual spectacle, sound devices and lyricism of a movie, but also to feel believable and genuine,” Carey said. “I also want to share advice or wisdom with the audience… which I think this film does. When I show it to my family and friends, they get emotional because they see the truth in Ricardo and the other players’ eyes.”
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