Beauty is something Romero Britto knows all about, due his revered work as an artist, painter and sculptor. So, too, is the beautiful game, due to his passion for football and role as a FIFA Ambassador for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The Recife native, who now lives in Miami, has been back in his homeland this week, visiting the Host Cities for the tournament along with FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, former Brazil internationals Bebeto and Ronaldo, and the Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Sport, Luis Fernandes.
FIFA.com caught up with Britto to discuss what hosting the FIFA World Cup means to Brazilians, their intense passion for football, his own relationship with the sport and role as a FIFA Ambassador, and preparations for the event.
FIFA.com: Romero, what does it mean to you that the FIFA World Cup will be coming to Brazil in 2014?
Romero Britto: It is an exciting time for Brazil. The passion for football and the FIFA World Cup is so deep in this country. It is almost even more than a religion. I really think only sport and in particular football can unify a nation, and especially one like Brazil where football is the common ground for everyone. It does not matter where you come from or what you do, everybody loves sport. It is something everybody can participate in without having to pay for anything. And you can experience moments of happiness and cheering. Football can be played everywhere, with whatever. Look at Pele – he started to play with a ball made out of socks. For me personally, it is the highest point to come back to Brazil at this moment and be part of this historic moment, when the FIFA World Cup returns after 60 years.
What is your first memory of the FIFA World Cup?
Since I was a little boy, I always followed the FIFA World Cup on TV. Watching the FIFA World Cup was always fun. There are some particular games that I can remember. Let’s say the ones from Germany, because I was there and I experienced how a country put the FIFA World Cup together, unified, cheering. Berlin was so exciting and I went to the exhibition of Pele there. It was actually the most beautiful memory to have been part of it for the first time because I was in the country. I would have never imagined that today I am actually travelling around with the FIFA Secretary General and two football icons, Bebeto and Ronaldo, as an ambassador and being part of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The passion for football and the FIFA World Cup is so deep in this country. It is almost even more than a religion.
As a FIFA Ambassador, how do you see you role?
I am extremely flattered and honoured to come back to Brazil as the FIFA Ambassador for the FIFA World Cup Brazil. I always wanted to be an Ambassador of Brazil. And now I feel privileged to be working along FIFA’s Secretary General Jerôme Valcke on this mission. It is a very unique job to work with many cultures. It is pretty spectacular. I really do hope that my art will be a bridge between people and common things. As an artist, you have a passport to many worlds and many tribes, just like a footballer does, and we have the chance to use this platform to help and try to contribute to stimulate positive social changes. I hope that my art inspires people so that they can feel the enthusiasm and the energy. As an Ambassador for Brazil for the World Cup, I am ready to do everything possible to ensure the event is an unforgettable experience for Brazilians and the whole world.
How would you explain Brazil to people who have never been there?
Brazil is almost a continent. So many things happen here at the moment, it is an engine. Brazil is going through an amazing transition from the colonial thinking of a few to a new nationwide thinking. Brazil is really shaping up well, with the leadership of one of the most passionate presidents in the history of Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff, who I think is even the first ever female President of a FIFA World Cup Host Country. She is preparing the country for even greater success, as she has been doing for a long time. Brazil has a great chance now not only to do well in economics, but also in culture and society. Sport and especially football is the best tool to learn discipline to strive for your goals. If a person does not have the discipline to wake up in the morning and feel motivated to make a difference in the world, you cannot achieve anything. Sport does a great job here to use the passion for the game to teach principles and values. I love to watch sports as I learn from the sportsmen, wondering how they do so well and understanding how much work is behind this success. And over the last few years, we Brazilians have started to excel in this.
What does football bring to Brazilian people?
Brazilians are connected through football. It brings joy and happiness to the people watching the game. So many kids, when they see their hero playing, they get inspired, it makes them dream about success, helps them set goals. Moreover, football is about discipline, determination and passion. It brings values to the people and serves as motivation for many to put in extra effort to pursue their life careers. You have dreams, but you need the discipline in life which football teaches you to make them become true. That is something football and sports can bring. The people see the young, successful footballers as an inspiration, and this has brought Brazil forward.
What is your relation with football?
I grew up with six brothers who all played football, so naturally I also played. But of course my prime interest was always art. But football in Brazil is art and culture. I was always fascinated by the whole set-up of a football match. It is an inspiration for me and my arts, the green of the pitches, the people screaming, the vibes and emotions and the colourful fan celebrations. It is simply amazing. I personally have never thought about becoming a footballer, but I have a great admiration for players and their way of living. I still remember vividly my first encounter with Pele – I also painted him.
This week you have been travelling through some of the Host Cities for Brazil 2014. What have been your impressions?
It was an amazing experience for me to feel the vibration and commitment of the workers and the people in the cities, and to see the hard work that has been done. I really started to feel that the FIFA World Cup is taking shape in the cities. They were very emotional days for me. And the visits this week were also so important, because they showed that FIFA cares about the cities and states and their success in staging this event. To come here and take the time to personally assess the FIFA World Cup on-site, despite the busy schedule of the FIFA Secretary General, is really appreciated by the Host Cities. It was an additional incentive for the cities and states. And you saw that the principles in the cities really appreciated the attention.
You were involved in the Football for Hope programme at South Africa 2010…
I would love to be further involved. The Football for Hope Festival in Johannesburg was a great experience. I really hope that together we can organise, under the Football for Hope banner, the biggest painting event for kids across Brazil, with all sorts of painting actions involving football themes, to give particular youngsters in disadvantaged communities and girls a platform for creativity and inspiration as well as hope.