25 Beautiful Pictures of the Beautiful Game
From Brazil to Barcelona and everywhere in between, the beauty of world football can be found all around us.
These 25 images reveal the passion of the fans and the players, from their moments of triumph to their moments of pain and defeat. They also reveal the beauty of mother nature herself and the joy found in the game by the youngest of players.
Here are 25 beautiful images of the beautiful game.
Long before the multimillion dollar contracts, the legions of fans or the big endorsement deal, it began with children who loved playing a simple and beautiful game.
Beach Soccer in Brazil
It is a common sight in Brazil—people playing the beautiful game in a soccer-mad country in front of some of the picturesque scenes in the world.
It's a concept those outside the sport struggle to grasp: that there's no clock in the stadium counting down for all to see. But that great unknown (when will the center official blow the final whistle?), has the fans of both the winning and losing sides on the edge of their seat until the very end.
This image is from the 2011 Women's World Cup when American Abby Wambach scored in the 122nd minute to force a penalty shootout against Brazil.
Some might think it is cruel to call an image of a player crying after a loss "beautiful." However, nothing could be more beautiful as the intense passion felt by this player after missing out on the World Cup.
This image comes from the 2009 UEFA playoff between the Republic of Ireland and France, shortly after a Thierry Henry handball set up the game-winning goal for the French and crushed the hopes of the Irish.
There are few feelings better than the elation that comes with winning.
This image is taken from Spain's parade following their victory at the 2010 World Cup.
There's no narcissism, no hope of a professional contract and no money involved; just love of the game.
The 2012 Paralympic Games were held in London in September where Russia won the gold.
Every once in awhile there is a moment that rises above the game itself—a moment so perfectly beautiful that it transcends sport.
This image is taken from Wayne Rooney's game-winning bicycle kick against Manchester City in February 2011.
There's no doubt that Xabi Alonso felt the physical pain from this encounter with Nigel de Jong in the 2010 World Cup final, but de Jong was the one feeling the emotional pain after his Dutch side lost the game and the chance to be world champions.
This stunning image comes courtesy of Major League Soccer's PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union. The stadium, which houses 18,500 fans for soccer matches, is dwarfed by the massive Commodore Barry Bridge which links Chester, Pennsylvania with Logan Township, New Jersey.
Even if you're not a fan of Liverpool, it must be recognized that the singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Anfield before their home matches, is one of the best traditions in the game.
In a long-standing tradition for the Portland Timbers of MLS, Timber Joey fires up his chainsaw after each Portland goal to cut off a log slab from the victory log behind the north goal. The slab is then celebrated by the crowd and later presented to the goal scorer.
There's only a handful of players in the history of the game who have both the audacity to try and the skill to complete what Zlatan Ibrahimovic did last November against England.
This picture was taken shortly after his wonder-goal bicycle kick.
This summer's protests during the Confederations Cup highlighted the negative feelings some Brazilians have with their government spending money building stadiums for the 2014 World Cup.
However, this image of Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil highlights the construction of the beautiful venues the tournament will be played in next summer.
The game can, and is, played in almost all circumstances, but every once in a while, mother nature shows up and simply doesn't allow it.
Sometimes a player puts his team on his back and simply won't allow them to lose. That certainly seemed to be the case in the 2012 Champions League final when Didier Drogba scored in the 88th minute to force extra time. That's when this image was taken.
He then went on to score the game-winning penalty in the shootout. It turned out to be his last competitive match for Chelsea.
Lionel Messi's historical legacy will be debated among the greats of Pele and Diego Maradona, but there is little doubt he is the greatest player of his generation.
This photo was taken at last year's Ballon d'Or ceremony, where Messi won his fourth straight award as FIFA's World Player of the Year.
Many of the greatest players in the history of the game did not come up through the great academies, or play in rigidly organized leagues run by adults. Instead, they learned the game the way most people on the planet have learned the game: in simple matches played in the streets.
There are many rivalries in world football that are terrific. On the international level, England-Germany, Argentina-Brazil and USA-Mexico are a few of the best.
Chicharito is sometimes the subject of mockery and derision for his open expression of faith before kickoff, but it also takes a sense of bravery on his part to publicly exhibit his beliefs each time he plays the game.
Before the game becomes more than it really is—changed by coaches, parents, referees and league officials—it's just a game. And it all starts with a young player and a ball.
In the 2011-2012 English Premier League season, the championship came down to the final day. Manchester United needed a win and a Manchester City tie or loss to clinch the championship.
United did their part, securing a 1-0 win against Sunderland. However, City were not to be denied as they capitalized on goals by Edin Dzeko in the 92nd minute and Sergio Aguero in the 95th minute to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and win the title.
Part of what makes watching games at the highest level so much fun is the energy put into the game by the fans. While there are many great fan bases around the world, the tifos the Dortmund fan base put up while playing Wolfsburg in 2011 and against Malaga in the Champions League last fall were some of the best ever created.
This photo was taken at a 2007 match between Real Madrid and an Israeli/Palestinian "Peace Team" in a match organized by the Peres Center for Peace.
Barcelona made a similar trip this past summer, but did not play a match; instead just visiting fans on both sides of the conflict.
For every moment of great triumph, there is a moment of great disappointment. This picture was taken just moments after Roberto Baggio missed his penalty in the 1994 World Cup final and shows both the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory.