Planet Soccer English Tattoos, Hero Worship in Naples

Japanese photographer Kai Sawabe has spent 25 years photographing soccer players and their fans across the globe. His pictures have been collected in a new book published in Germany.


Crumbling plaster, creaky windows -- the house could use some fixing up. But no one wants to lay hands on this old building in the center of Naples. They stand in front of its towering façade and stare in wonder at what they call the image of a saint. It's been 15 years since Diego Armando Maradona played in Naples for the last time. The giant mural reminds the people of southern Italian city of that grand era. Thanks to Japanese photographer Kai Sawabe, others around the globe can also stare in adoration. Sawabe has photographed the icon, just like hundreds of other soccer images around the world. The 50-year-old has spent 25 years travelling around the globe, taking pictures of soccer players and their (occasionally tattooed) fans in England, Ohio, Ulan Bator, Chile's Atacama Desert and many other places. He says he wants to capture the soul of soccer, the emotions and passions associated with it -- not the goal or the foul, but the joy or anguish of the player.

Sawabe was accompanied on some of his travels by sports journalist Bertram Job, who has the dope on lots of local football history. In a new photo book published in Germany, Job tells the story of the Irish immigrants who founded the Celtic Football Club in Glasgow back in 1887, establishing what he calls the "holy trinity of football, prayer and beer." It seems to be a successful combination: Celtic celebrated its 40th national championship only a few weeks ago.

The book by Sawabe and Job 365 Fussball-Tage was published in Germany by Verlag Die Werkstatt in 2006.

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