PATTA Q&A: ROCKY HEHAKAIJA

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In line with the upcoming Patta x Umbro for Favela Street auction we had a little chat with the brain behind the Favela street project, Rocky Hehakaija.

Who are you, and where are you from?
My name is Rocky Hehakaija and I'm born and raised in Uithoorn, a small town close by Amsterdam.

What keeps you occupied on a daily basis?
Everything I do in my life is either connected with football or youth. I'm the director of the Favela Street Foundation, I work as an advisor for communication agency Youngworks, and I'm a freelance street football artist.

When did you start playing football?
My entire childhood was dominated by football, I even slept with my football, everywhere I went I took my football with me. First I started playing on the streets with my big brother and his friends, I was the only girl playing, so I had to be tough.

When I was 14 I started playing for a club, the Legmeervogels in Uithoorn. I was soon scouted and played for the 'Amsterdamse selectie'. My football career took off, and I played for the national team and was the only girl in the internationally known Street Legends team. But then I tore my ACL and the operation failed, I was 22 years old when the doctor told me I couldn't play football again. I had to quit football, but I kept on playing in the streets, because old habits die hard, or in this case never die.

How did you end up working on projects in the favelas?
When I was 18 years old, I participated in a television documentary in the slums (favela's) of Rio de Janeiro. I stayed for one week in the favela Vila Alianca in Rio, and I met girls from the same age also with a passion for football. I fell in love with the city and the people. It was a life changing experience, because it was the first time I really felt the power of football. In a place where people live in poverty and violence on a daily base, football brings hope and joy.

I remember sitting on the front porch of one of the girls houses, and all of a sudden a gang of drug soldiers walked into the street. They were around 16 years old, carrying guns and wearing shorts and football jerseys. One of the soldiers walked up to me with a gun in his hand, and with his other hand he took my hand and said 'hey you are that football girl from Holland, you are the best female player I've ever seen, respect' and he walked away, leaving me standing in shock.

After my first experience with Rio and the favela's I knew I wanted to return to do something with kids and football. 10 years later, in 2013, I hooked up with Philip Veldhuis, the founder of Favela Street. He invited me to help him with his project. So in 2014 I decided to live in the favela Vila Cruzeiro for 3 months and work on the Favela Street Girls project. It was the most incredible time of my life in which I've learned that life offers you so much more than you can imagine.

What is, for you, the meaning of Favela Street?
For me Favela Street is about offering youngsters from slums a chance on a better life.
These youngsters are stigmatized because they live in a slum. Society looks down on them and excludes them from proper education and work opportunities.

With the power of street football, Favela Street creates a new generation of strong role models in slums across the world. With these role models we create safe spaces for children in their community. And we offer our role models the chance to get a better education or anything else they want in life to grow as a human being and role model.

What is your best power piece at the moment? (clothing, collectors item etc)
I'm totally hooked on the Patta X Levi's collaboration. I have both washings, black and indigo ,and I love to combine them with each other. Levi's are my favorite jeans and Patta my favorite streetwear brand, so for me it was a match made in heaven.

What is your favourite visual at the moment and why? (art,photography, videos)
For my 31st birthday my girlfriend gave me a painting by Dutch artist Jeroen Koolhaas.
The painting looks just like the view from my house in Vila Cruzeiro, where I stayed in 2014.
Every time I look at it I feel at home.

Which music artists are you currently listening to and would you
"Views" from Drake is on repeat at the moment, and of course "Lemonade" from Beyonce, I love me some girl power.

A mix that I've been listening to constantly since it dropped is Den Kojo #1 from Lion Kojo, super funky!

One more tip to throw in some Brazilian vibes, I love what Sango is doing with the Brazilian funk. A personal favourite is the "Don't" remix from Bryson Tiller.

What is your favourite travel destination?
Easy, Rio de Janeiro, it's the most beautiful city in the world: the people, football, beaches, nature, music, favela's, it has everything my heart longs for.

What is your relationship with Patta and when/where did it start?
Ever since Patta opened it's doors in 2004, I came to the shop to buy my sneakers or do window shopping. I've always looked up to Tim, Edson and Gee for everything they did with Patta.
I've been following them since day one, and I have mad respect for everything they've accomplished. They inspire me to follow your dreams and to do what you love the most and to do it with friends and family! Just like me they are huge football fanatics, so we started talking about football from the get go. They invited me for Patta football sessions and they've always supported my football ambitions. It's a big deal for me to being able to work together with the Patta family, I'm forever thankful for all the support!

You can find all the information about the auction here!

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