In 2016, Simon Di Principe released the book Grass Roots: a collection of photographic portraits from east London's spiritual home of Sunday league football, Hackney Marshes. Later that year, the photographer began shooting urban football communities in Brazil for his upcoming book, Várzea. As in Grass Roots, the backdrops for these photos are goalposts, dugouts, the tribal colours and untamed fields of amateur football – so you'd be forgiven for thinking that the photographer's main muse is the sport known as “the beautiful game”.
Várzea is a book which takes us inside the hectic milieu of Brazil's football subculture; and yet Di Principe's portraits are often strikingly personal, stealing an intimate moment with an individual drawn out from the wider community. The photographer made many friends on his travels, and at one point he even got a chance to join in the games. “My good friend Piva – who wrote in the book – I played for his team in São Paulo,” Di Principe recalls. ”He plays for Autônomos, they are a punk football team. He helped a lot in introducing me to the várzea football in São Paulo.”
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