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AP Photos: Soccer joy before heroes hit World Cup

June 10, 2014

ITU, Brazil (AP) — There’s probably no future Neymar under the collapsing old hangar where the boys of Itu are playing street soccer.

But these kids are pretty good. Make that REALLY good.

They flick and flutter, dart and dazzle. They’re fast, ruthless and cheeky — and above all show the improvisation that allowed their heroes to turn football into the beautiful game (and perhaps their parents just to get by in life.)

Every Sunday, across this gigantic nation of rain forests and legendary beaches, groups of kids flock to makeshift pitches like this one to play impromptu tournaments where everyone’s welcome. You just show up and wait your turn.

The rules are simple.

A game is over after 10 minutes, or when one side scores two goals. The winner stays, the loser makes way for the next team. In case of a draw, the team that won the last match stays. If that’s not the case for either, both teams leave the field.

Basically, you keep going till you lose.

The skill and passion even these amateurs show give a sense of why Brazil is still the world’s greatest footballing nation.

But the boys playing their hearts out here are nervous about Brazil’s chances of winning the World Cup.

“I’m not a believer,” said Jose Hinaldo, a tubby, shirtless guy with rhinestone ear studs.


Associated Press writer Joji Sakurai contributed.

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