BBC Culture

The art of the kickabout

  • Boys in the hood
    This shot – taken at the São Mateus scrap yard in São Paulo – shows how the game stripped back to basics, with tyres as goal posts.
  • Don’t look down
    Pillitz was attempting to get a shot of the São Paulo skyline when he spotted this rooftop game – on a tower block more than 30 storeys high.
  • Drilling down
    When Pillitz discovered football is played on Brazilian state oil rigs, he travelled by helicopter to get a bird’s-eye view.
  • Crowded houses
    This photo was taken in Rio’s largest and oldest favela, Rocinha where “around 150,000 people live in a horseshoe that wraps around the mountain,” says Pillitz.
  • A winger and a prayer
    The robed priests of Santo Tomás de Vilanova monastery, 400km west of São Paulo, are seen here playing with a group of fellow seminarians.
  • Tarmac as turf
    On Sundays, the São Paulo authorities order the closure of the Minhocão, an elevated section of a major trunk road that bisects the city, because there aren’t enough green spaces.
  • Eyes on the goal
    This picture shows Miroca, one of Brazil's most revered talent scouts, next to young players wanting to become future football stars.
  • Amazonian beauties
    Each team in the city of Manaus’ ‘big kickabout’ has its own beauty queen, who competes in a pageant; an eliminated team can be brought back if their beauty queen is successful.
  • Grains of truth
    Pillitz describes this scene as “a supremely emblematic – one could argue iconic, others might say clichéd – symbol of Rio de Janeiro”
  • Get your kicks
    “Football is the most important part of these prisoners’ lives. If they break the rules, football is the first thing that is removed from their privileges,” says Pillitz.

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In advance of the World Cup, Christopher Pillitz tells BBC Culture about his photographs of Brazilians playing football – from beach babes to monks.

Football first arrived in Brazil in 1894, and in June 2014 the world will watch as the game’s biggest tournament is played across the nation. But Brazillian football is not just played in stadiums and municipal pitches: as photographer Christopher Pillitz shows, Brazilians find space to play in scrap yards, oil rigs – and even on a flyover.

His new book Brazil: The Beautiful Game collects images taken over two decades that reveal, according to journalist Eduardo Bueno, “a passion that’s stamped on walls in graffiti; that permeates through favelas, back alleys and tower blocks; that’s tattooed on bodies”.

In the book’s foreword, Bueno writes: “It’s about street football: football’s soul; football without rules, without reins, without restrictions or referees’ whistles.” Sometimes, even, without a ball. “Many a game has been played with a bundle of socks or a rolled-up newspaper, even, in desperation, an orange.”

Pillitz grew up in Argentina, and started his project as a way of documenting the significance of football to Brazilian identity. Perched on rooftops in favelas or peering through bars in a prison, he was able to take photographs because of his focus on the game. “I always mentioned that I was in search of football,” he tells BBC Culture. “This was the magic word for the access I received pretty much unhindered.”

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