Who if not the Real Madrid Club de Football and the Futbol Club Barcelona (“Barça”) could be the most successful – if indeed not the greatest football teams – in Europe. Between them they have won a combined 13 European Cups/UEFA Champions League titles. Real Madrid alone has won football’s premier club competition a record of nine times. It is, moreover, the world’s richest football club, revenue-wise, its annual turnover estimated at €513 million. With a worth of €3.3 billion it is the world’s most valuable sports team.
Madrid has contributed spectacularly to the European Cup’s history by winning the first five finals of that competition.
Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Milan have been the most successful teams in the UEFA Champions League. Madrid is tops with nine wins, as said, followed by Milan with seven, Liverpool and Bayern with five, Ajax and Barcelona with four. Madrid’s record of 12 final appearances is proving unbeatable to date.
2009 was a smashing season for Barcelona; it won an amazing sextuple titles: Copa del Rey, La Liga, UEFA Champions League, Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
On the surface it would seem that a ferocious rivalry between Real Madrid and Barça is inevitable but it may come as a surprise to some people outside Spain that that rivalry is much more than just about sports. There’s a simmering political undercurrent in the rivalry; Real Madrid is historically associated with the Franco regime and today’s centrist conservatism, while Barça is the brilliant underdog that symbolizes Catalanism, suppressed during the Franco dictatorship. Today, the extreme side of that regional nationalism has radicalized into a bid for sovereign nationhood.
This simmering political undercurrent of the Barça-Real Madrid rivalry has given rise to breathtaking “patriotic” disputes in the stadium, to the point that a match between them has established itself as Europe’s classic game, known popularly as “El Clasico.”
The indisputable privileged status – well-deserved, to be sure – of Real Madrid and Barça in the world of football (soccer in US lingo) is manifested in myriad of ways. Thus, in Pepsi’s “The Art of Football” exhibition which combines the exciting world of photography, street art and sport as part of Pepsi’s 2014 football campaign, two of the chosen six footballers to make the list were players in the premier Spanish teams: You got it – Leo Messi and Sergio Ramos, of Barça and Real Madrid respectively. The rest were Robin van Persie a striker for Manchester United; Jack Wilshere, central midfielder for Arsenal; David Luiz, a defender in Chelsea; and Sergio Agüero, a forward with Manchester City.
All six are among the globe’s best footballers. All personify what is worth celebrating in the art of football. No wonder they’ve made it to the exhibition in the basement studios at Victoria House, a stunning neoclassical landmark in Bloomsbury, London. Larger-than-life 10-ft-x-10-ft picture canvases of the fabulous footballers by photographer Danny Clinch are painted on, as never before, by emerging artistic talents chosen specifically to represent the vibrancy and spirit of the global players’ home countries and/or the countries of their football teams.
The artists: UK’s professional doodle bomber, Hattie Stewart, who added her artistry to Wilshere’s photograph; Argentinean Franco Fasoli (“Jaz”), one of the world’s first a major grafittiers, did the same with Agüero’s; Brazilian illustrator and street artist Ricardo AKN is the artist who enhanced David Luiz’s photo; Barcelona-based visual artist Zosen, who has been featured in galleries and streets around the world and runs graffiti workshops in Barcelona, worked on Sergio Ramos’; Dutch visual artist Merijn Hos did van Persie’s; Argentinean street artist Nicolas “Ever” Romerois, famed for his portraits using both aerosol and brush-based techniques influenced by Francis Bacon and Van Gogh, worked on Leo Messi’s.
“The Art of Football” brings the raw energy of street art onto the more permanent fixtures of photography. The footballers – who last January were announced as Pepsi MAX’s global 2014 football ambassadors – are depicted in a clash of color and movement, bringing football to life in a powerful and striking way.
To capture the athletes’ passion and excitement for the game, Pepsi, with its long-standing reputation of featuring world class footballers, commissioned lens-man Danny Clinch whose distinctive, stark, black-and-white imagery of iconic subjects have earned global accolades. Clinch’s images of the footballers were then enhanced by the six street artists, giving the photographs an unbridled creative edge, urban rawness, bold color (Pepsi’s red, white and blue) and sense of movement.
Steve Lazarides, gallerist and street art pioneer who discovered world-renowned street artist Banksy, and co-hosted the party that unveiled “The Art of Football” last 18 February, said: “Using street art over the stark black and white photos of these footballing icons creates a striking image. This project provided these artists with the perfect opportunity to showcase their unique styles to a global audience – there’s a huge difference between something on the street which a passerby might glance at for 20-seconds and canvases of this magnitude that are permanent pieces of art. This collection manages to fuse the two styles in a very innovative and organic way.”
For her part, Kristin Patrick, Pepsi Global Chief Marketing Officer, commented: “We were passionate about creating a visual language that brought the energy and movement of football to life in powerful, unique pieces of art showcasing our players in the spirit of now. These are the hero images of this year’s global Pepsi MAX football campaign. . .”
Renowned celebrity DJ Chelsea Leyland kept the guests tapping their toes as they ohed the canvases on the inaugural night which attracted such big names as socialite Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, close friend of Prince William; comedian Jack Whitehall; Blur rocker Alex James recently turned journalist; recording artist Lily Allen; and American-born Noelle Reno, TV presenter in London, socialite and former model.
The amazing “Art of Football” may be exhibited in the heart of London but is undoubtedly the embodiment of global sentiment. The brilliant is never provincial.
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.