Caio Vilela is a famous brasilian photographer, journalist, and travel guide. He travels a lot around the world taking pictures of football fields. You can discover his relation to the football and more here.
Why did you choose to take pictures of football fields in different countries in the world (Brazil, Mali, Yemen...) ?
Football Without Borders is a project I've created in 2003 by chance. I was in Yazd, central Iran, when I took this picture that shows kids playing football next to the lovely islamic architecture facada that is iconic to this town.
The pics was published in brazillian airlines inflight mag to illustrate an interview with a FIFA guy that was, back then, responsible for raising the flag of football as a tool for peace.
When I saw the photo published, I had the spark and the idea of keeping my eyes open to photograph every street football scene I see happening next to some symbolic place or iconic urban or natural landscape. As I travel very often as a reporter, TV fixer and travel guide, I had the chance of shooting it in several regions.
In the beginning it was just a hobby. But after I got my first book published Futebol Sem Fronteiras and exhibiton held in Sao Paulo's Museum of Football in 2010, then the project got serious and I had the opportunity of travelling often on comissioned trips between 2010 and 2017, just to photograph street football.
Did you played football when you was a child ?
I never liked it and I was really bad at it. I support Corinthians in my hometown, Sao Paulo, as my father was a Corinthians supporter. And of course I get euphoric during any World Cup. But I have to confess I don't really play these days. The exception is when I play ith my three sons, just for fun. To me, the football of the untrained men on their 40's is the most radical sport, as it is so easy to get hurt. My favorite sport is hiking in the mountains. I can't afford hurting myself on a silly football match and then become not able to do the stuff I love. During my childhood, I played a lot in the streets in my neighborhood, called Vila Madalena, in Sao Paulo's West Area. And my kids still play in the same street. The best kid among those who play nowadays in my hood is a girl. She plays with the right foot with shoe, and the left without shoe, as she controls best the ball with the right and kicks it harder with the left. To me this is a pure art form that I love to register.
What does the football mean to you ?
Football is a tool for peace and instrument of union for cultures and nations. You don't have to speak the language. You can just show up and with eye contact make a lot of communication and creat epic moments together, You share a lot of joy and that brings people together. It's naturally create genuine values such as union, companionship, solidarity, friendship, cumplicity, team spirit, reciprocity.
To me the real football is being played outside the stadiums, away from the industry goals and money pressure.
In the introduction of you book (Futebol-Arte), Zico said that playing in the street without money and without press was « the real game ». Why did he say that ?
Probably because he knows better than anyone else that the industry of professional football is an allienating circus run by an evilish mafia.
Would you consider football as a part of art ?
Absolutely ! Taking pictures during a soccer match is at the same time similar and totally opposite of photographing a dance presentation: both are an exercise of agility, timing and blending in with the environment, with no interference. During a ballet, the lens points to a small limited space, where choreographed predictable moves will take place. While in a soccer pitch, action is everywhere. Anarchy and improvisation runs the show and that can drive dizzy the most experienced photographer. You have to foresee the right moment to press the button, predict when one body unblock the sight of another, in that split second when productivity struggles against the clock.
Just like dancers, amateur soccer players will probably not run, jump, fall on the ground and bring out their bodies best performance for more than one hour. Whenever I come across a thrilling spontaneous match, I have to run and hopefully produce two or three really good pictures. You can never tell if that game has just started or is about to come to an end.
I approach the pitch like an eager striker and nervous as a defender, willing to see the ball being kicked towards the goal like a forward. At the end of the match, I am sweating and covered in dust, feeling like a player who has just scored a goal.
Some people think that there is some kind of «europeanisation » of brasilian football due to the fact that many brasilian football players work in Europe and hence they may have lost their creativity. What is your feeling about that ?
I think that is natural, part of the lapidation process suffered by players who turn football as their profession.
In his book "Soccer in the sun and shadow", Eduardo Galeano wrote that the evolution of the football reflects the society evolution. What about that ?
Hard to understand exactly what he means. But to me the world is bigger than a football ball.
As a paradox, former football players like Romario o more recenlty Ronaldinho turn to politics at the end of their career. However, they were not interested in politics at the time they played football contrary to Socrates for instance. Why ?
Good question. I don't know. Maybe this comes along with maturity, as they get old.
What are your plans for the future ?
I'd love to find a sponsor to keep on shooting football kids in Russia. I've just spent the last 2 summers in Russia taking photos of kids playing football in different geographical regions, including all World Cup host cities and iconic landscapes such as Caucasus and Ural Mountains, Caspian and Black Sea, Don, Volga and Yanisey rivers, Lake Baikal, Siberia, Tuva, Kalmykia, Birobijan, Krasnojarsk, Khabarovsk, Bashkorstostan, Dagestan, Chechnya, among others.
The result is a mosaic of images showing russian diversity of cultures and landscapes with football in first plan as a common element, a subject/universe never (I believe) previously explored so close by any russian or foreign photographer. When put together the images not only display Russia's remarkable nature and culture, but shows local young people living incredibly uspirited and epic childhood moments. This material is still fresh and unpublished, and so far only commited to an exhibition in a São Paulo city cultural center on next June. I would like to offer this material to potential curators, sponsors, publications, public space administrators or exhibiton venues.
According to you, what team will win the World Cup in Russia ?
Any team that has learned (and put up in practice) the lesson Germany taught on the last Cup: we're in the era of team spirit. No more space for individual stars.
Thanks a lot to Caio Vilela for his answers. You can find his books (Futebol Arte and Futbol sin fronteiras) and all the pictures in a bookshop worldwide.
We join some articles to discover his work: