By Ken Reed

According to fans and media members who saw multiple events at the Rio Olympics, by far the best and most exciting event was the men’s soccer final won by the host Brazilians over Germany in a penalty kick shootout.

Iconic Maracana Stadium was filled to the rafters on Saturday for the gold medal game. Brazil ultimately won 5-4 on penalty kicks, setting off a wild celebration at the stadium and throughout Brazil. The win gave Brazil some revenge for a 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.

It was Brazilian superstar Neymar who gave Brazil the win with his penalty kick, which provided the final 5-4 margin.

“Neymar went to his knees, then onto his stomach, his hands covering his face, struggling to control his emotions,” according to a New York Times report. “His teammates, who had been on their knees at midfield, as if praying, began running toward him in a jubilant sprint.”

Neymar had delivered gold to his homeland. It was a triumphant deed but in the big picture pales in comparison to his work off the field in Brazil. Neymar spent more than $6 million of his own money to build the Neymar Jr. Institute. The Institute is designed to bring hope to Neymar’s devastated childhood home in Praia Grande, a neighborhood plagued by drugs, prostitution and lousy schools. In addition to his own investment, Neymar has worked to garner sponsors for the Institute.

At the Neymar Jr. Institute, children work on computers, read and write, and study English, Spanish and Portuguese. Adults use the facility in the evenings for vocational training. A dentist and doctors are available, and earlier this month, 32 children received free eyeglasses. The Institute is delivering education, health and hope.

Neymar made a difference Saturday. And that’s been the case since December 2014 when he opened the Neymar Jr. Institute.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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