Rio: Where the game is life

By Dominic Vieira

The game never stops -- that’s my relationship with it. We have a pact where we’ll never leave each other. The desire to play, talk and watch has never changed and probably never will, as well as the hunger to capture my perspective of the game. That's what #whereisfootball represents to me -- a movement to which I’ve dedicated more than half of my Instagram content.

I was fortunate to be stationed in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, living the magic of the tournament in the perfect place -- on soil that lives and breathes football. 

I witnessed it all -- from the very beginning, with that Oscar strike, to that unpredictable and glorious James volley at the Maracanã, to that historic 7-1 that silenced a nation, and, finally, to a Final that did not live up to its name.

After five unforgettable weeks, consuming our beautiful game at a faster rate than cereal boxes are emptied by hungry adolescent souls, I knew I had to return to this place.

In December, football came to a complete halt. Another star was not stitched, the Brasileirao had just ended, and once again Rio’s teams underperformed. Conversations drifted into other directions and there was no oil fueling the transfer window fire.

Summer had arrived, which naturally pulled the nation away and onto the beaches. For the football obsessed European that I am, or the “Portuga” as I was often referred to, I arrived at the Copabana with futebol stuck in my mind. I didn’t need a TV or Twitter, and I couldn't have cared less about the season ending - although one day I seriously must attend a Fla-Flu derby. One way or another, football was going to be absorbed.

There’s always a ball being kicked, flicked or tricked. Whether it was inside the endless maze of the Rocinha favela, hidden in the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood on a hushed afternoon, down at that iconic Posto 9 on Ipanema Beach, or among the dozens of other places I stepped foot on -- it was found.

I played, played and played. All ages were welcome, which means danger, because when a boy only 11 years old walks onto the court, you mustn't underestimate anything. Surfaces didn’t matter either. It could have meant playing barefoot until you had too many blisters to produce one last step-over, grass that hadn’t been cut in years, or the sand right by waves – we played.

Invites don’t exist; simply be brave and put your hand up, and be even braver and prepare to get nutmegged -- because in Brazil, you will. Wherever you play, you’re being watched; sometimes I was the one with my camera to tell my story, but on other occasions you’re in the photo that’s being taken.

In December, it all takes place outside of the stadiums. The World Cup is only remembered in rainbows of artwork painted throughout the city. Footballers are the heroes the boys try to replicate in their game. And I was a sponge, always absorbing.

What I learnt is that if you don't find football, it finds you.

Go to Brazil, and don’t forget to use #whereisfootball.

This piece was written by Where Is Football's Dominic Vieira. You can track his future  journeys through the world of football by following him on Instagram.