- Photos by
- Jane Stockdale
- Words by
- Damian Platt
- Website by
Brazil is synonymous with football. Even so, no one knew what to expect. Massive street protests during last year's Confederations Cup revealed frustration with stadium spending and a deep-rooted desire for change in the country. This year, the authorities braced themselves for more. But when football fans from all over the world arrived, Brazilians threw away their troubles and set about hosting one of the happiest, most exciting World Cups ever.
Football is unpredictable, full of shocks and surprises. Yet no one could imagine what would happen. This was a tournament unlike any other, where the world witnessed the much-loved host country live out a sporting nightmare, and where three previous World Champions were eliminated in the first round.
What was it like to follow the action in Brazil? From a farm to the favelas, beach to an A+E department - this photo essay brings you the story of Brazilians and fans from all over the world as they live the agony and ecstasy of the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
Before the World Cup, Brazil was jittery. A year ago, the largest protests in a generation had unsettled the country. These included massive dissatisfaction with the billions spent on glittering “FIFA standard” stadia. When demonstrators called for FIFA standard hospitals and schools, the authorities responded with tear gas and plastic bullets.
Brazilians love the World cup but this time round nothing is simple. Streets usually painted green and yellow ablaze with Brazil flags and bunting remain untouched. Then the world arrives on the doorstep. The World Cup is on and the people of Brazil belatedly get behind it. Where could be better to watch Brazil play than on the beach?
With Brazil in the global spotlight, public security was paramount. In the build-up to the World Cup, Brazil deployed over 100,000 public safety officials and some 50,000 troops from the Brazilian armed forces at an unprecedented cost of US$ 855 million.
Complexo do Maré is a huge sprawling favela built on reclaimed swampland near Rio's centre. Home to over 100,000 people its flat, orderly streets are set out on a grid system. To try to maintain security during the World Cup, in March, 3,000 soldiers were deployed to occupy the entire community in preparation for the tournament.
Meanwhile an estimated 600,000 foreign fans arrive in Brazil to join locals at FIFA fanfests around the country. The World Cup is ubiquitous. From waiting rooms to bus stations, beauty salons to banks, shops to supermarkets - everyone across Brazil seems to be tuning into the matches. For the entire month - everywhere you go - you can't escape the World Cup.
When Brazil play the country feels like everything comes to a standstill. Public holidays are declared. Streets are deserted. During a match the country unites to shut up shop and everyone seems to be watching the game. Everywhere you look people are wearing Brazil shirts.
Away from the Zona Sul neighbourhood and its famous beaches, security means something else for the residents of the enormous Complexo do Alemão favela. Like Maré, Alemão is home to more than 100,000 cariocas. Armed violence has blighted their lives for decades, and despite extensive investment, a police ‘pacification’ programme and a bizarre cable car project, which has turned the community into a tourist attraction, 2014 has been a violent, troubled year.
On the Rua 2, shootouts between police and local gang members are a daily occurrence. Brazil games give residents a chance to celebrate and forget about it, even just for a few hours. Brazil vs Chile takes place on a wonderful sunny afternoon and spirits are high with roof terrace barbecues, and plasma screens, set up at countless parties across the favela. Children are decked out in Brazil shirts and painting each other’s faces with footballs and flags as the game starts. When Brazil wins the party begins with volley after volley of fireworks. ‘Fireworks or gunshots?’ the kids ask.
Football is a universal game. It doesn't matter who you are or where you’re from – everyone can choose a team to support and get involved.
As tourists flood to the 12 key World Cup host cities to watch the matches, daily life remains normal in most other Brazilian towns. Yet across the country - everyone tunes in to watch the games.
When Brazil win Maré erupts into a huge party. Huge walls of speakers line the favela streets. The whole community is out to dance, party and celebrate Brazil's win. There is funk, pagode and even the local samba band which turns out to play.
Brazil make it to the final four, with only two matches to go. Yet, with Brazil's superstar striker Neymar injured and out of play, people in Alemão seem anxious. The sky looks ominus and grey in the build-up to the semi-final Brazil and Germany clash.
Watching Brazil’s impossible astral inferno defeat was surreal. At 5-0 everyone sits in shock. No one can believe what’s happening. At 6-0 someone orders another round of drinks. By 7-0 everyone is hugging, jumping and cheering on Germany.
The speakers are set and Rua 2 erupts into a massive Baile Funk that lasts all night. It feels like the entire community of Alemão are out to celebrate. Despite Brazil’s crushing defeat the party carries on.
Brazil crash out. Germany are through. It’s the second semi-final: Argentina and Holland battle for a place in the World Cup Final. Copacabana is packed as football fans, locals, tourists, families, grannies and babies all gather to watch the game.
Supporters wait with baited breath during the penalty shoot-out. The beach erupts in celebrations as Argentina win.
After Brazil's crushing defeat by Germany it rains for three days. It seems Brazil is crying. Back in Maré for Brazil’s match for third place with Holland, there’s a sea-change in atmosphere. The streets were once packed with the entire Maré community wearing Brazil shirts - today hardly anyone's wearing yellow. The match kicks off, yet no one really cares. While most locals stay home, small groups gather to watch Brazil’s last game. Even so, the streets in Maré are still some of the best decorated in the whole city.
During the build up to the World Cup final in Rio, a huge influx of around 50,000 Argentinian fans flood the city to cheer on their national team. In a symbolic goodwill gesture, Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes opens Brazil’s iconic Sambodrome, home of the Carnival parade, for fans to camp out. The mayor previously was reported to say that he would “kill himself if Argentina won against Brazil in the Maracana”.
Argentina are Brazil's arch rivals and antagonism exists between fans. Adopting extra-ordinary security preparations, Brazil doubles the numbers of troops in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the match to 26,000.
The city is awash with fans from everywhere. Crowds are ecstatic, after all they’re at the greatest party in the world: the World Cup final on Copacabana beach. The build-up is immense. Drummers rattle polyrhythms on military drums. People dance, shout, sing and scream. Although Argentinian fans outnumber Germans by around 1 to 10, all of Brazil seems to be backing Germany against their rival. To lose to Germany and see Argentina win against the same team in the final, in Brazil, would be simply too much to bear. While vendors pace the beach selling flags, ice-cold beers and caipirinhas, fans hold their breath.
Yet there is no happy ending tonight for Argentina. Supporters of all ages collapse in tears. An old man sits on a deck chair, crying, choking back tears, inconsolable. Fans hug and try to console each other. Others sit silent in shock and disbelief.
Angry and on the edge of reason some throw bottles and deck-chairs on the beach. When fighting breaks out in nearby streets riot police come in firing tear gas and stun grenades. It feels like the protests all over again.
Yet it is the World Cup final and there can only be one winner. The German fans are over the moon. But even with Brazilian support, their party lacks passion. You can’t help wondering what the Argentinean – or Brazilian - celebration might have been.