For one week each year, the Geraldo Beltrão maximum security penitentiary in João Pessoa, Brazil holds a soccer tournament for the prisoners. Five-member teams from the various cells compete against each other on a barbed-wire-encircled sand court until there’s just one left standing.
The winning team members each get a box filled with rice, beans, and other basic food items. More importantly, though, the winning team also gets to play against the prison guards for the grand championship.
This year Italian photojournalist Nicolò Lanfranchi was there to document the tournament for Colorsmagazine, and he followed the prisoners as they trained and played.
“It’s an event that people take very seriously,” he says. “And it’s a good way to release tension.”
Lanfranchi’s photos are timely, as the World Cup starts this month in Brazil and his work raises questions about an overcrowded prison system and the vast sums of money Brazil is spending to host the event.