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World Cup 2014

The pulse of a nation: Belgian tracks impact of Finals on ordinary people

Belgian documents the impact of Finals on ordinary people in host countries

Published on Jul 6, 2014 12:58 PM

Belgian Bart van Bambost has made it a point to go to every World Cup since 2006.

He was in Germany eight years ago, spent time in South Africa in 2010 and is now in Rio de Janeiro.

His priority, however, is not watching football matches.

The 46-year-old's main goal at the World Cup is to document how the country responds to the world's biggest sporting event. Entitled "The Other World Cup", his photography project has seen him shot a once-divided Germany embrace the first big event they hosted as a new united nation.

In South Africa, he spent time in the homes of Soweto's slums and saw the profound pride South Africans had in being the first African nation to host the World Cup.

For his latest project, he spent a few weeks living in Rocinha, Rio's biggest favela (Brazilian slum) to try and understand and document what football means to them.

He captured their passion for football and the joy Brazil's World Cup 2014 opening win over Croatia gave this neighbourhood.

Van Bambost, who is married with a son, was aware of the possible dangers living in a favela would bring. Apart from fear from his safety, the bigger concern was being accepted into the community.

"If you want to feel it and get the right connections, you need to participate in that part of the society you want to tell a story about," said the managing partner of a social enterprise.

A former director at Nike, where he also worked on corporate social responsibility projects, van Bambost is familiar with the power of sport. But he said nothing beats the universal appeal of the World Cup.

He said: "Sport, especially football, connects people in ways nothing else can. You go to a favela and you have nothing in common with the people there.

"They look at you strangely and you feel uncomfortable. But add a football and the strangeness disappears."

He hopes to continue his project at least till the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He added: "The World Cup is not just about the matches between the two countries, but also the impact, both positive and sometimes negative, it has on the larger global society. The emotions and commotion it creates across continents is amazing. No other event in the world is able to create that."