The World Cup isn’t just about the players, or even about who wins. The wild passion of the sport’s fans can steal the spotlight, especially for those of us who don’t live and breathe soccer. And there sure are a lot of fans–an estimated 3.5 billion worldwide, making soccer the world’s most popular sport.
For a new photo book that highlights the World Cup in Brazil, U.K.-based photographer Jane Stockdale turned her lens away from the star-studded field and instead focused on the die-hards that cheer for them–in particular, the 3.4 million fans who attended games in Brazil. Stockdale, a commercial and documentary photographer, is so passionate about the sport, she cut our interview short so she could watch the Columbia-England match last week.
But she doesn’t just love the game. Stockdale is also captivated by its vibrant, sometimes crazy fan culture. “Everyone always photographs the pop, rock, sports, or movie star, but I love to capture the energy and good vibes of the crowd,” Stockdale tells Fast Company in an email. “I especially love to document fans at the World Cup, because it doesn’t matter what you do, who you are, where you come from, the World Cup unites people and brings them together.”
The photos in the book, called Watching the World Cup, reflect that die-hard love for the world’s most popular sport, from the emotional roller-coaster of a heartbreaking loss to the ecstasy of a win. One image, taken of a crowd of Argentina fans right after their team advanced to 2014’s finals, captures the pure energy–and pandemonium–of the exciting moment: People’s fists are thrust in the air, their mouths mid-scream. “Argentinian fans wear their hearts on their sleeves and bring a passion like no other,” Stockdale says.
In stark contrast, one shot shows an elderly woman clad in Brazil’s colors, sitting alone and staring out the window after Germany beat her team seven to one.
“Great-grandmother Dona Zefa had seen Brazil win the World Cup five times but was in shell-shock,” Stockdale says. “To me this sums up the collective mood of stunned silence, shock, and horror. Football is crucial to Brazilian identity, so this was a catastrophic loss.”
The book takes you from the early games through to the very end of the tournament, illustrating at every turn how integral soccer is to many of its fans’ identities as they experience the ups and downs of the game. That’s reflected in the singular nature of each book: Each of the 400 copies has a different combination of eight stickers on its cover that highlight different fans. The stickers look like traditional World Cup Panini stickers, each of which has a portrait of the World Cup’s biggest stars–but Stockdale’s version, designed by Patrick Fry, feature portraits of fans instead. “Instead of showing the players as expected, we are championing the fans, the real stars of the tournament,” Fry says.
You can pre-order the book here.