Wed, Jun 04, 2014 - Page 19 News List

WORLD CUP: For Brazilian soccer fans, love of game is skin deep

AP, RIO DE JANEIRO

The fanatic passion that Delneri Viana feels for his beloved Botafogo soccer club has really gotten under his skin — 83 times and counting.

The 69-year-old Viana, retired from the military, spends his days as a full-time fan of the top-flight Brazilian club. Once a week, he heads to a tattoo parlor to get fresh ink.

“I feel no pain,” he said one afternoon as he sat at the parlor.

Not even when he had the tender skin above his belly button tattooed with a version of Rio de Janeiro’s famed Christ the Redeemer statue wearing a Botafogo jersey?

Or when letters spelling out the club’s nickname were inked onto the bony fingers of his left hand?

No, Viana insists, saying that there is only one reason to feel pain: “When my team loses, especially when I’m there inside [Estadio do] Maracana” — the stadium that is to host the FIFA World Cup’s final match and is Brazil’s shrine to the sport.

“Worse still is when Flamengo wins,” he said of Botafogo’s archrivals and Brazil’s most popular team.

Tattoos are popular in Brazil, which boasts a beach culture and climate that make it an ideal place to show off body art. Everybody under the age of 30 seems to have something etched onto their skin.

Viana cannot identify what drives him to get the tattoos or even why he loves Botafogo, saying: “I just came this way.”

Aside from his tattoos, he sports finger and toe nails painted in his team’s black-and-white colors, and says he never wears anything without the club’s emblem on it.

When his phone rings, it loudly emits — what else — Botafogo’s anthem. With a shrug, Viana said he will eventually stop getting tattoos because he will “run out of space.”

Despite being enemies on the pitch, Flamengo fan Felipe da Costa Almeida shares the same love of the game, and the ink, as Viana.

Da Costa Almeida said it was by the grace of God that he tattooed his entire back with a replica of the Maracana, the Christ the Redeemer statue and the emblem of his club.

“I got the tattoo in early 2009 and later that year, Flamengo won the Brazilian championship,” he saod. “I did it because of my absolute passion for football.”

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