When we were young, all of us dreamed of winning the FIFA World Cup™ while having a kick-about with friends in the park, garden or schoolyard. Caio Vilela believes children playing football all over the world symbolise the passion of the game.
The Brazilian photographer, who has travelled to 105 countries and takes pictures of youngsters playing the sport, in order to capture and portray their emotions, added Russia to his list this year. Vilela spoke to FIFA.com about his projects, his recent trip to Russia and his expectations about the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
During a trip to Iran in 2003, he photographed children playing football next to the lovely architecture of the ancient town of Yazd and afterwards the photo was published in a Brazilian magazine.
"The idea behind my football without borders project came about by chance," Vilela explained. “When I saw the photo published. I had the idea of keeping my eyes open to photograph every street football scene I witnessed in all different countries. As I travel very often as a reporter, TV fixer and travel guide, I had the chance of shooting in many regions.”
Vilela has already put on several large exhibitions in his native Brazil and elsewhere in the world. He has also published a series of books on his photography and this year he decided to photograph street football in Russia.
“All my work is united by passion for football,” Vilela continued. “The passion for football outside stadiums; the pure relationship between childhood and the ball; the shining moments of anonymous football enthusiasts on their improvised pitches; football as an art form. During my travels, I realised that football is a truly global language, a means of communication and a way of bringing people together.
“The boys in the pictures will all grow up and maybe they'll never play together on this pitch again, or even in the same town or village. Therefore, I am capturing moments that will never be repeated.”
Language barrier not a problem
In September and October, the photographer visited Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk, Tuva, Lake Baikal, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Khabarovsk and Birobidzhan. Everywhere he went, he took photos of youngsters playing football against the backdrop of Russia's historical and cultural landmarks and beautiful countryside. Vilela admits he has no intentions of stopping any time soon. By summer 2017, he intends to have explored all of Russia, from the Caucasus to the Artic and from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok.
When asked about what surprised and delighted him in Russia, Vilela said: "One thing I've learned is that people's hospitality is absolutely everywhere! From the big cities to rural areas. The more I travel inland, the more I discover the richness of its culture and nature.
“Everywhere I go in Russia people tell me football is exclusively for boys,” he added with a smile. “But in practice I've seen girls playing football everywhere too!”
Picking out the things he loved about the country, Vilela cheerfully mentioned the food, nature, people and 'the endless train rides.'
Finally, the globe-trotting photographer revealed his thoughts on the Confederations Cup and World Cup soon to be held in Russia. “I expect (and I am sure it will be) a beautiful spectacle for both the professionals taking part and the public attending. The Host Cities I have visited are taking it so seriously! It looks like they will be ready way in advance.
“Judging by what I've experienced during my travels,” he concluded. “The local people will definitely welcome visitors very well. The language barrier will never be a problem with such goodwill among Russians!”