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Brazil’s Sport of Kings Soccer: Olé, Olé, Olé! (Photos)

The English may have invented ‘football,’ but Brazilians’ passion for it is unparalleled. Christopher Pillitz photographed their national obsession.

Christopher Pillitz

In two days, the world will decend on Brazil to watch the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. When it comes to a passion for soccer, FIFA couldn't have chosen a better host location. Soccer is one of Brazil's national obsessions, with residents from all walks of lifefrom those who live in wealthy neighborhoods to those from the favelas, from kids and convicts to priests—starting friendly matches, playing anywhere they can. Even an official ball isn't a necessity. 

 

While the English may have invented the game, Brazilians have embraced it with an uparalleled passion, putting their own spin on it so that "a genuinely Brazilian style of football emerged: a sort of dance-cum-fight, performed as if to a samba rhythm," as Christopher Pillitz describes in his new book of photos Brazil: The Beautiful Game (available from Prestel). In a stunning collection, Pillitz trains his lense specifically on street "football," which he calls "football's soul; football without rules, without reins, without referees' whistles." 

 

Here: A game of futevôlei (footvolley), a Brazilian speciality, being played in Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro's most densely populated favelas, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

Priests of the Santo Tomás de Villanova seminary in the town of Ourinhos, play a game of football against student trainees from the seminary. The seminarians' football team has won many local trophies in recent years, and they remain one of the best teams in the region, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

Under an Amazonian tropical rainstorm in a village close to the tri-border town of Tabatinga, a group of boys wallow in the muddy pleasure of football, 2001.

Christopher Pillitz

Young skateboarders fly past a football-inspired graffiti mural of the controversial Engenhao stadium in Rio de Janeiro, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

Locals play football on Rio Vermelho beach, Salvador, 1997.

Christopher Pillitz

Young men play football in the heart of Rocinha favela, considered the most densely populated one in Rio de Janeiro, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

A little boy runs past a mural depicting the infamous defeat of Brazil against Uruguay by 2-1 in the 1950 World Cup held in Brazil in the packed Maracanã stadium. The country has never forgotten this most humiliating of defeats on home soil. Brazil is hoping to put this right with the 2014 World Cup. 

Christopher Pillitz

Fans await the start of play in the inaugural friendly match between Brazil and England, after the closure of the iconic Maracanã stadium, Rio de Janeiro, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

One of four football fields inside the Adriano Marrey prison. The 2,000 prisoners spend years inside for crimes of theft and drug trafficking. The prisoners play a football tournament as part of their privileges for godo discipline, 2013.

Christopher Pillitz

A group of friends play an improvised "pelada" on Copacabana beach, 1997

Christopher Pillitz

In the absence of green spaces in the megacity that is São Paulo, a boy kicks a ball to friends on the streets of Brazil's industrial heartland in 1997.