Brazil’s Hooligans, The Dark Side of the Beautiful Game

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Forget what newspapers say about Brazilian hooliganism. I’ve seen and been living it for years. I didn’t need to read or hear about it. Nobody had to tell me how it is to be in a train or a bus with your mates when rivals attack, I myself have already lived it. For many times I also had to run from police even though my photographer card was on my chest. Brazilian photo-journalist Gabriel Uchida explores the dark side of the beautiful game.

Now I can say I understand these men. Journalists and regular fans always asked me about football riots but I’ve never said a single word. Now, I won’t tell any stories but I’ll show what a Google search couldn’t present you before.

In 2009 I started taking photos of football supporters. Since, then I got to know all kinds of fans, even the most hated ones: hooligans. As I came to know them what most shocked me was, not the stories, but the complete ignorance of journalists and the lack of preparation of authorities to deal with something that was born so many years ago in the 60’s.

Pre-arranged fights on social medias is a lie. Saying they don’t like football is a lie. They are bloody criminals is another lie. The truth is they have regular lives. They work, they study, they have families. They are engineers, drivers, lawyers or even businessmen. But there’s something very important to understand: they are addicted to a specific adrenaline that they will only find at football riots. That’s the point. Hooliganism is the real-life version of the movie Fight Club. And like the movie, they just want to fight against those who also want it. Another similarity is that they don’t want to kill. They want to punch and kick and then go back home to do it again next weekend. Unless, one of them has been killed. In this case the laws of the streets prevail and they will want revenge. But I’m sure it would happen the same way outside of football. Nothing here comes from another world, it’s just the reflex of a violent and intolerant society. You’ll find cowardice and absurdity but also friendship and solidarity.

This work is a portrait of the Brazilian hooligan scene. Leaders and members of different groups contributed to the photos to show nothing else but the reality. The main idea wasn’t to defend anybody nor to glamorize the topic. The purpose of this essay is to demystify a scene for the thousands of “experts” who have no idea of what really happens. This is the true face of Brazilian hooliganism.

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Gabriel Uchida is a Brazilian photo-journalist who has closely followed supporters, ultras, and hooligans in his native country.

Follow him on Twitter: @fototorcida. Gabriel’s work is also featured in issue one of the Póg Mo Goal magazine 

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