Images of the World Cup

The streets of Brazil are dressed for the 2014 Men’s Fútbol World Cup. Chalk drawings of flags and the cup’s statue are scattered along the roadways. Green, yellow and blue streamers in the form of the Brazilian flag hang up above on clotheslines and are waving with an excitement that’s been stirring in the air these past few days. If you look around you can see the spirit of the games painted all over the country.

Among all of the photos I looked at using the Google Maps streetview feature, there is one place that made me stop and think. The area is called Rua Tavares Bastos. In what appears to be a community backyard in the center of shanty apartments, there is a soccer field, or fútbol pitch as it’s sometimes called. But instead of grass, there is concrete, and instead of nets there is just the frame of a goal post. You might imagine there would also be sad gray-colored apartments surrounding the place, but there are bursts of red, turquoise, yellow and orange. The buildings tower around this tiny place, and yet you don’t even feel small here. Along one of the walls a graffiti artist has emblazoned the faces of the tournament’s big superstars — Wayne Rooney (ENG), Lionel Messi (ARG), Neymar de Silvia Santos (BRA) and a few others. Each player’s face is surrounded by his team’s colors, and each has a look of determination. They stand back along the edge of this tiny fútbol pitch, and they seem to watch over the area like guardians of a sacred sport.

On the walls, they look invincible. Their faces are twice as tall as a 10-year-old kid, the kind who could only dream of being immortalized in paint. The same kind of kid who wonders what it’s like to have a legacy so great that it can only be portrayed with shades of hard work and courage.

Here between the brightly colored walls, in a place where nothing but daydreams live, the heroes of the fútbol world are only faces, but they seem to be keeping watch. While the rest of us anxiously tune in these next few weeks to the World Cup matches, these painted heroes remain as spectators to another kid’s game. They watch kids battle it out for possession of the ball. And they watch a kid fall to the concrete ground while defending their goal posts.

Miles from the mural are the actual professional players preparing for their next matches. There’s no saying when the final whistle will blow for these current fútbol superstars, but as of right now they are immortal on the walls of this Brazilian street. Their place is only safe on the wall until their skills fall out of fashion and a new kid rises up to take their place. There’s no saying who will grow up to be the next heroes, but it’s not unlikely that one of those heroes could be the kids daydreaming under the watchful eyes of the colorful walls.

Kathy Tun of Spring Valley is a junior at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. She can be reached in care of this newspaper at P.O. Box 340, Princeton, IL 61356.