Football legend Pel� with youth players at the refurbished Morro da Mineira pitch

Brazil's first player-powered football pitch unveiled

Football legend Pelé has opened what is billed as Brazil's first player-powered football pitch, which uses players' kinetic energy to power lighting.

A local youth team put the pitch in the Morro da Mineira slum of Rio de Janeiro to the test in a match last night following the completion of a project sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell to install about 200 AstroTurf covered tiles capable of capturing the impact energy from players running across the pitch.

Working in conjunction with solar panels also installed around the field, the player-powered tiles feed electricity to a system of floodlights overhead.

According to Richard Kemball-Cook, chairman of the British startup Pavegen that supplied the tiles, the company’s technology uses a system of cogs. When stepped on, the cogs spin like tops and act like generators, he said.

Pavegen has installed similar tiles in train stations in Europe, shopping centres in Australia and Terminal 3 of London's Heathrow Airport, the chairman’s son and head of the company Laurence Kemball-Cook said, but the football field is a first.

"We've effectively turned this community into a real-life science experiment," he said. "I believe this technology can be one of the future ways we illuminate our cities."

Each tile now costs about $500 (£310), but the price is falling as the 35-employee company refines its manufacturing process, and as well as generating power the tiles can be used to transmit live data on footfall.

Pele got emotional over the project, tearing up as he said he hoped the new field would help spark local kids' interest not only in football but in science.

"My father named me Edson after Thomas Edison," said the longtime star striker, whose birth name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

He said he hopes the next generation of Brazilians will help bring the country as much success in science as it has had in football.

"I'm sure that soon the number one scientists in the world are going to be Brazilians," Pele said as he brushed aside a tear.

The Morro da Mineira project is part of the Shell #makethefuture programme, which aims to inspire young people and entrepreneurs to look at science and engineering as a career choice.

Pavegen’s founder Laurence Kemball-Cook was a Shell LiveWIRE UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in 2011 and the company received a grant from the company to help develop its technology.

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