Paulo Ito’s goal: Catch Brazil’s mood

Graffiti of a crying child who is served a soccer ball to appease his hunger covers a portion of a public school wall in Sao Paulo.
(Miguel Tovar / Getty Images)

Brazilian graffiti artist Paulo Ito, whose work went viral after he depicted a hungry boy being offered a soccer ball instead of food, has unveiled a new graffito, which captures a very different side of Brazil’s mood during the World Cup.

In the painting, splashed onto a freeway wall, three soccer fans watch a Brazil game intently. Behind them, a protester, donning a mask and carrying a flag denouncing FIFA, also discreetly keeps his eyes trained on the TV.

“It shows there is a contradiction between hatred for FIFA and love for football,” said Ito on Wednesday. “I heard from some friends in Rio that during a protest, some people popped into a bar to check out the game on TV.”


After almost two weeks of the World Cup in Brazil, protests have been tiny compared with those that took place last June, and most reports of the event have focused on the way Brazilians have lovingly welcomed foreigners, even if locals remain upset about some of the preparations and the tournament has gone more smoothly than expected.

This is not the only other work Ito has unveiled during the World Cup. Another, done in Fortaleza, explored the much-detested phenomenon of sexual tourism and abuse of children in the poorer parts of Brazil. A white older man presents a doll to a young girl, only to be hiding a rose behind his back.

His first viral work, of the young boy and the soccer ball, continues to gain traction online, though Ito says he never meant it to be an “absolute negation” of the World Cup or Brazil’s government. “I always expressed my discontent with FIFA, but I also always said I’d watch some games.”

If some people see an element of contradiction between his work, says Ito, all the better. “Art is a contradiction,” he says. “Things are much more complex than any description that can fit in one or another single work of art.”