Despite their backs facing the camera, you can almost feel the joy radiating from a group of Peruvians as they watch their team on the big screen in Jackson Heights, Queens. In the same neighborhood, a man – with his face painted to match the Uruguayan flag tied to his neck like a makeshift cape – gives a thumbs up as he stands in a bakery. These are the images you’re not likely to see in mainstream media, which will dedicate more real estate to heavy favorites like France and Germany this World Cup. Their narrow coverage won’t delve as deeply into Peru – a team that made its first appearance in the cup in 36 years – or Panama, a country that had never participated in the tournament before. This bothered Ricardo Andrés Verdesoto Rugel, a diehard fan of the sport, who decided to do something about it.
Ricardo’s Guide to Soccer in New York:
Colombia: El Basurero, La Choza del Gordo, La Pollera Colorada
Uruguay: La Gran Uruguaya Bakery
Brazil: Miss Favela
Mexico: Las Margaritas, Tequila Sunrise
Argentina: El Gauchito
Equipped with just a camera, he turned his lens to the the Latin American and Latino (and Portuguese) fans celebrating their countries during this unpredictable month. Hopping from NYC bar to NYC bar – between commuting, watching games, and taking photos, he can dedicate as much as 40 hours per week – he’s giving us a peek into what the World Cup is like for our communities.
“[I wanted to] put the spotlight on what this tournament really means to us culturally, and try to capture some of that excitement,” he says in an email. “It has been incredible to see and witness the incredible commitment that people have to the World Cup and their national teams. For example, I’ve gotten to places at 6:30 a.m., and there would already be lines outside places prior to them opening – just so people can be sure to get a table to a seat to root for their team with their people.”
So far he’s attended about 15 events, mostly in Queens, where he lives, and the Ecuadorian photographer has found excitable and welcoming fans in each venue. And though everyone is swept up in the excitement of the World Cup, there’s one team that’s doing it best: “Everyone is very enthusiastic for the most part, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the Colombian fans. Cumbia, salsa, vallenato, maicena, mucha rumba. It really becomes a huge block party when Colombia plays.”
As an Ecuadorian, his team has only made it to the exclusive tournament a handful of times, but he still wanted to uplift other fans. In turn, his images give us – even those without any stake in the games – a chance to feel that same energy.
To check out more of Ricardo’s images, visit his website here.