Football as art
“Football is war.” Those were the words of former Dutch national football coach Rinus Michels, who led his team to victory in the 1988 European Championships.
Since then, we’ve also learned that football is art. And nowhere is that clearer than in Brazil, where everyone can name 11 artists with the ball, without even thinking about it.
If they’re not Ronaldo, Bebeto or Romário, then they are Pele, Zico, Socrates, Garrincha or – as we are currently seeing - Neymar Jr and Thiago Silva.
But it doesn’t end there. For this World Cup, artists are also busy with football off the pitch. If you want to see for yourself, all you need to do when in Rio de Janeiro is go to the famous beaches – Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon.
Stroll along the promenade and you’ll come across huge sand sculptures that were created during the run-up to the competition. Recreated in sand you’ll find the massive and mighty Maracanã Stadium, the World Cup itself, and what must be the biggest football boots on Earth. The finishing touches alone must have taken hours and hours.
The finest sculptures, though, are halfway along Copacabana. There’s not just Neymar Jr in sand, but also Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. And the nice thing is that the “big three” are next to each other, like brothers, as though they’re best friends and are waiting for a bus to the adjoining Ipanema or Leblon.
The details are striking and it’s all down to Katharina, a 23-year-old artist and fan of the Brazilian club Flamengo. Her Neymar Jr is full of bravado, holding up his left arm and shouting. Ronaldo, on the other hand, is thumping himself on the chest, while Messi (tranquil as ever), coolly cheers.
What makes her work exceptional is that it’s the only one in color. “I did it especially to make it even more noticeable,” explains a laughing Katharina, who lives on the streets and is hoping she can make some money out of the World Cup.
And that’s precisely the reason why a number of artists in Santa Marta, a Rio de Janeiro favela in the Botafogo neighborhood, got together for this World Cup. They wanted to give it more color, literally and metaphorically.
They’ve done a fantastic job. Anyone who walks through the narrow steep alleys of the favela can’t fail to notice their work. Santa Maria is actually part of the “Tudo de cor para você” project organized by AkzoNobel’s Coral brand, which involves donating paint to the residents to help revitalize their community.
It’s currently adorned with various Brazilian footballers, who have been depicted on the walls and even the ground. After strolling around the area for an hour, you come across virtually the entire Brazilian team. Nobody appears to be missing.
Now and again you have to look carefully to see exactly which Brazilian player it’s meant to be, because some of the drawings are better than others, but in this case, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong-footed. In fact, it’s just like playing against a real Brazilian footballer. Tricky and skillful, there’s usually nothing they like doing better.