The people’s game

July 1, 2014

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Eddie Keogh

Former Liverpool F.C. manager Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

I think that he may have learnt that in Brazil.

Brazil's soccer fans watch their team play against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in a restaurant in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

I am covering the 2014 World Cup, and to capture the action, I usually sit by the side of the pitch.

But on June 28, when Brazil went head-to-head with Chile for a place in the quarterfinals, my project was to document what this tournament means to ordinary Brazilians, who in most cases can only dream of getting a ticket to see an actual World Cup match.  

The next best thing is to meet with friends and family or get to the nearest bar with a television. So I spent the 90 minutes of the game going on my own bar crawl (without the alcohol) to photograph Brazilian fans dreaming of glory.

Brazil's soccer fans watch their team play against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in a bar in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The feelings of fear, joy, hope and despair were no different here in a Sao Paulo bar to the emotions being felt on a bench in Belo Horizonte, where Brazil were actually playing. 

Fans celebrate goals in the middle of the road, safe in the knowledge that all cars have been temporarily abandoned.

Brazil's soccer fans celebrate a goal against Chile by running into the road during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28.  REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

A taxi driver sits alone at his rank shouting at a small television screen, petrol attendants pull chairs onto the forecourt – they know they won’t be busy for a while yet.

A taxi driver reacts while watching Brazil play against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The chef leaves the kitchen and joins his colleagues by the bar – no one is eating now. Football pitches are deserted, the footballers of tomorrow have to find their heroes of today.

Brazil soccer fans watch Brazil's match against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, in a bar in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28, 2014.   REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

By 90 minutes it’s 1-1 and sadly I have to leave Sao Paulo to fly to Fortaleza for the Holland v. Mexico game.

I ask the taxi driver to drive like the wind and luckily at the airport I learn that the game is still not over.

I quickly store my luggage and head for an area where at least 400 people are watching the match on a big screen. I slip on my Fifa credentials for a semblance of authority, since trying to tip-toe my way through this crowd to get to the front is not going to be easy.

Brazil soccer fans react as they watch the penalty shootout against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Picture taken June 28, 2014.   REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

The penalties begin and I’ve bagged prime position just below the screen. I’m looking for raw emotion now and it comes in bucket loads. Chile miss, Brazil miss, Julio Cesar saves and the airport erupts. 

Brazil soccer fans react as they watch the penalty shootout against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo June 28, 2014. Brazil won the match. Picture taken June 28, 2014.   REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Brazil may have a reputation as the heart and soul of football, but I think that there are quite a few Brazilian hearts that would struggle to handle another game as tense as that one.

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