FIFA Congress

Romero Britto: Sport is humanity

The artist Romero Britto (right) with TV presenter Jennifer Santiago (left)
© Foto-net

World-renowned Brazilian painter Romero Britto is one of many artists proud to participate in the campaign for the Official Art Poster Edition of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, part of the profits of which will be put back into the '20 Centres for 2010' campaign. In an exclusive interview with at the 59th FIFA Congress in Nassau, where two of his works were being showcased, this colourful 46-year-old spoke passionately about his art, football, his motivations and the FIFA World Cup. Romero, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?Romero Britto: I was born in Recife, north-east Brazil, almost half a century ago. I come from a large family, with seven brothers who played football non-stop, whether on the street, on the beach, or in the house! Looking back, it really was chaos - the house was always full of my brothers' friends, as well as a veritable menagerie of animals.

Where did you go from there?I studied law because when I was a kid I dreamed of being the Brazilian ambassador. But back then I was already painting and drawing as well. From the age of eight, I started drawing everywhere, including on the walls at home, artwork which my mother somewhat failed to appreciate. But I never thought that this passion for art would develop into a career, or that one day I would be travelling around the world exhibiting my work. I left Brazil for Europe once I'd given up on the idea of becoming a diplomat. I stayed there for a year, before moving on to the United States, where I've now been living for the past 23 years.

And how would you describe your art?Through my art, I try to express the things I would personally like to experience on a daily basis, such as positivity, energy and joy. I don't want to depict events like death and tragedies which we see in the media every day. I wake up every morning with the goal of being a source of hope and inspiration for everyone, including myself. I want to feel good and I hope that this is reflected in my art. If I'm able to share this feeling with others, why shouldn't I? I'm truly flattered that so many people appreciate my work.

What can you tell us about the painting you did for the Official Art Poster Edition?I was very excited to be asked to do that painting. Africa as a whole is a fascinating continent - it was the birthplace of civilisation and will once again be the setting for a new beginning. Sport is a medium; it is humanity, a way to unite people. On the pitch, everyone is equal and can express themselves freely. The 2010 World Cup will be an opportunity for the world to get to know Africa as a whole, beginning with South Africa.

You have said that art can be a reflection of the good and simple things in life. Do you think that this applies equally to football?Absolutely. By that I meant that you don't need major events to live life to the full. Sport is very simple and yet can change people's lives. The act of playing together, in a group or even just one-on-one, is an imitation of life. People must talk to each other and continue to share, and sport enables them to do that regardless of culture and race - that's the beauty of it.

What does football mean to you?Football is all about friendship and togetherness. This can start in the smallest communities and spread throughout the country. It is humanity, people who are living their passion and who love to play. It's not really about winning or losing, but doing something you love. It is this spirit of celebration and sharing that brings people to the stadium. It really gets the emotions flowing.

You're clearly a strong believer in charitable actions. Why is this?Ever since I was small, I've always loved sharing. I wasn't a selfish child. Later, in the United States, I met people who had experienced tragedy and who, as a result, had set up charitable associations. I realised that life had been kind to me - I was born in a fabulous country, I'd travelled all over the world, I had a good education, etc - so when I can, I like to give something back. I went to many schools, from Yale to Georgetown, to share my passion and maybe even provide a little inspiration. Helping your community is important work, and I love doing it.

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