RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Carlos Henrique do Nascimento, 46, is known as Caíque. He is a bricklayer and goes to all the games Vasco play. Caíque is reputed to bring luck to the team. Vasco is his religion. He goes to all the games with a banner that reads ‘faith’ and the leaves of a rue plant that many people in Brazil believe brings luck. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
The following photos were taken in Rio de Janeiro in May and June 2014. Carlos Henrique do Nascimento, 46, is known as Caíque. He is a bricklayer and goes to all the soccer games played by Rio de Janeiro's Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama. Caíque is said to bring luck to the team. He goes to all the games with a banner that reads "faith" and also brings the leaves of a rue plant, which many people in Brazil believe brings luck.Sebastian Liste—Reportage by Getty Images
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Carlos Henrique do Nascimento, 46, is known as Caíque. He is a bricklayer and goes to all the games Vasco play. Caíque is reputed to bring luck to the team. Vasco is his religion. He goes to all the games with a banner that reads ‘faith’ and the leaves of a rue plant that many people in Brazil believe brings luck. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: The Cristo Redentor, Rio´s most famous momunent, dress with the Brazilian soccer shirt during a night party. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Delneri Martins Viana, 69, has 82 tattoos that pay homage to his team, Botafogo. He has had the tattoos done over the course of 15 years, since he retired from the army. He goes to histattoo artist every Thursday to have a new tattoo done, or improve an old one. The tattoos include the team’s shield, names of players, results of matches and even part of the club’s anthem. He only owns clothes that have the Botafogo crest. Once a week he paints his finger and toe nails with the stars of theclub’s logo. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Delneri Martins Viana, 69, has 82 tattoos that pay homage to his team, Botafogo. He has had the tattoos done over the course of 15 years, since he retired from the army. He goes to histattoo artist every Thursday to have a new tattoo done, or improve an old one. The tattoos include the team’s shield, names of players, results of matches and even part of the club’s anthem. He only owns clothes that have the Botafogo crest. Once a week he paints his finger and toe nails with the stars of theclub’s logo. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Desiree Rogério de Carvalho, 63, is a car mechanic. His workshop is filled with paintings and banners of Fluminense. He has his teeth painted in the team’s colours. He is such a fanatic he did not go to his own wedding because it clashed with a match. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Carlos Eduardo Araújo, known as Eduardo Tokitô, is 40. His house and car are painted in the colours of Flamengo, the team he supports. He lives in Nilópolis, a distant suburb of Rio de Janeiro and attends all the club’s matches. Pictured are his wife Cintia de Oliveira, 35, and his daughter Brenda Araújo, 13. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Carlos Eduardo Araújo, known as Eduardo Tokitô, is 40. His house and car are painted in the colours of Flamengo, the team he supports. He lives in Nilópolis, a distant suburb of Rio de Janeiro and attends all the club’s matches. Pictured are his wife Cintia de Oliveira, 35, and his daughter Brenda Araújo, 13. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
COPACABA BEACH, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: 2014 Soccer World Cup related sculture at Copacabana Beach. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Father and daughter after a soccer game in the favela of Santa Marta near Rio´s downtown, with a 2014 World Cup related graffiti. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Graffities with face of the world most famous soccer players, as Messi, Rooney, Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo in a futsal field in he favela of Tavarez Bastos near Rio´s downtown. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Kid playing soccer in the favela of Santa Marta near Rio´s downtown, with the Cristo Redentor monument in the back. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Kids training in the soccer school for favela kids in Tavares Bastos favela near Rio´s downtown. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Soccer player training in the Sao Cristovao Soccer Team, the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Kids resting after a soccer training in the soccer school for favela kids in Tavares Bastos favela near Rio´s downtown. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Kids resting after a soccer training in the soccer school for favela kids in Tavares Bastos favela near Rio´s downtown. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Soccer players training in the Sao Cristovao Soccer Team, the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Sao Cristovao Soccer Team stadium view from the club president office. The Sao Cristovao the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Sao Cristovao Soccer players after training in the, it´s the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Commundal rooms where the Sao Cristovao Soccer players sleep and live after training. The Sao Cristovao Soccer Team is the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Soccer players training in the Sao Cristovao Soccer Team, the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Soccer stuff during a training of the Sao Cristovao Soccer Team, the older socer team in Brazil which was the team of the world famous player Ronaldo when he was a kid. Today it´s an important school for young talents who wants to be success professional players in Europe. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 2014: Goalkeeper kid  a training in the soccer school for favela kids in Tavares Bastos favela near Rio´s downtown. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
MARACANA STADIUM, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Fluminense fans after at Maracana Stadium, celebrating after their team won in the cassical game with the Flamengo. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
MARACANA STADIUM, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Fans during a soccer game between the Fluminense and Flamengo, the two most important Rio´s teams. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
MARACANA STADIUM, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 2014: Fans during a soccer game between the Fluminense and Flamengo, the two most important Rio´s teams. (Photo by Sebastián Liste/ Reportage by Getty Images)
The following photos were taken in Rio de Janeiro in May and June 2014. Carlos Henrique do Nascimento, 46, is known as C
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Sebastian Liste—Reportage by Getty Images
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Football Comes Home: Soccer as Religion in Brazil

Jun 12, 2014

My friend Anirban Blah, a bollywood superagent, has a tattoo on his arm with the logo of Spain’s Real Madrid. (As a partisan of FC Barcelona, Madrid’s great rival, I’m a little ashamed that my own devotion doesn’t run quite that deep.) This makes Blah the craziest football fan in Mumbai. In Rio de Janeiro, that would mark him as someone with a mild interest in the sport. Rio is, after all, home to Delneri Martins Viana, a man so besotted with his favorite team, Botafogo, that he goes down to the tattoo parlor every Thursday to have his loyalty inked on his skin. At last count, Viana had 83 Botafogo tattoos.

Does that make him the craziest fan in Rio? Not if Desirée Rogério de Carvalho has anything to say about it. A partisan of Fluminense FC, de Carvalho has that club’s maroon and green colors painted on his teeth. (Happily for Blah, Madrid’s color is white.) Yet another contender is Carlos Eduardo Araujo, who has had his house and car painted in the red and black of CR Flamengo.

If Brazil is football’s spiritual home, then these men are its high priests. (Carlos Henrique do Nascimento takes his unofficial role as vicar of Vasco da Gama very seriously. The team believes his presence at games helps them win.) But they are only the more extreme examples of the deep passion for the sport that runs through the country’s 200 million people.

And the organizers of the World Cup—the Brazilian government as well as FIFA, football’s scandal-plagued governing body—are counting on that passion to make a success of the tournament, which kicks off on June 12. But there is another passion at play: a growing rage at economic inequality and corruption that has repeatedly exploded onto the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities over the past year. Polls show that many

Brazilians—perhaps even a majority—feel that hosting a World Cup is a bad idea, both in terms of economics and optics. Protest rallies are being planned during the tournament, and over the next few days, the news from Brazil could be as much about the action on the streets as on the pitch.

So this is a good moment to remind ourselves that whatever Brazilians feel about the World Cup, their love for the sport remains undiminished. Superfans like de Carvalho and Viana tend to the flames of footballing passion with great devotion. Long may the fire burn.

Sebastián Liste is a Brazil-based photographer. In September 2012, he received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and the City of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award. LightBox previously published Liste’s work documenting the community living in an abandoned chocolate factory. Follow him on Twitter @SebastianListe.

Bobby Ghosh is the editor of TIME International. Follow him on Twitter @ghoshworld.

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