Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tribute to Inspirational Footballer

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tribute to Inspirational Footballer

Article excerpt

THE World Cup has, let's be honest, served up some fairly godless moments so far. We're thinking of the England players' feet of clay, the sending off of Brazil's seemingly blameless Kaka and the tantrums of our friends from across the English Channel (or La Manche as they would have it).

So it's nice to be reminded of the beautiful aspects of the game of football.

A new exhibition called And God Created Pele opened at the Opus Gallery, West Avenue, Gosforth, at the weekend, featuring photographs of the iconic Brazilian footballer.

The man born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, and nicknamed Pele, will celebrate his 70th birthday later this year. He was part of three Brazilian World Cup-winning teams and is his national team's all-time leading goalscorer.

As well as an inspiration to other footballers, he has inspired artists too. The Opus Gallery exhibition features work by Robert Davies, Tierney Gearon, Ralph Gibson, Patrick Lichfield, Vik Muniz and Martin Parr.

The last two of those have both exhibited at Baltic, Gateshead, Parr last year and Muniz in 2007.

Also Brazilian, Muniz makes portraits of people using all sorts of different materials, including the mud that you see defining Pele's famous features on the football.

Simply because it's extraordinary, it's worth recalling Vik Muniz's explanation of how he was able to leave his native country and establish himself in the United States where he is now based.

Dressed in a tuxedo, he was leaving a hotel where he had just received an award for his work when a woman urged him to intervene to stop a fight on the pavement. A man with a knuckle duster was savagely beating another man.

Being a plucky sort, Vik piled in.

The man with the knuckle duster fled. But his victim, beaten half senseless, drew a gun from his car and fired at his rescuer, mistakenly thinking his assailant had come back to finish the job.

"You know on films when people get shot and the fall to the ground like this, clutching their chest?" said Vik at Baltic.

"It's not like that. I got hit in the leg and I cartwheeled into the air. It was like being hit by a truck. But I managed to crawl to my car and I drove to the hospital.

"I got there but my strength ran out and I crashed into the gates of the hospital. People ran out and thought they were dealing with a car accident. It was only when they got me out that they saw the blood coming from my leg. It was everywhere and there was a big hole in my leg where the bullet had hit."

Vik lay unconscious in hospital for two days and was then visited by the gunman and his father. Anxious for him not to press charges, they compensated him with enough money for him to travel to the USA and further his career.

Alongside And God Created Pele is another exhibition called Polaroid Icons which celebrates the original brand of instant photography with signed prints by celebrated names including Sir Peter Blake, Helmut Newton, John Swannell and Marc Quinn. …

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