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The Beautiful Game

As the countdown to the beginning of the 20th Football World Cup nears its end, football fans and media outfits from across the globe are gathering in Brazil for a month of nail biting international matches between 32 teams in 12 venues across the vast country. Hopes for the home side, which has won the World Cup more often than any other nation, are riding high despite a string of controversies and protests surrounding the preparations for the big event which have been over-budget and delayed. In the weeks leading up to the opening games, football's governing body FIFA has been hounded by allegations of corruption in the awarding process of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for which millions of dollars are supposed to have changed hands. Yet away from the glamour, the national leagues, the glitzy stadiums, the international competitions and the absurdity of the inflated wages paid to star footballers there survives a truly popular sport that requires nothing more than a round object and a relatively level playing field to delight even the poorest enthusiast. On their travels across the globe, Panos photographers have been coming across amateur football players in every country in every imaginable situation. Here are just some of their impressions of the 'Beautiful Game' as Brazil's most famous player Pele nicknamed the sport he excelled in.
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