Soccer-inspired art show heads to World Cup in Qatar


ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay (AP) — Keeping an eye on the ball takes on new meaning when you consider Paraguayan artist Lili Cantero’s dedicated World Cup collection.

Decoratively detailing the lavish stadiums of the upcoming tournament in Qatar – the first to take place in the Middle East – as well as the most sought-after players and teams, Cantero prepares the final details for his football-inspired art exhibition, ” 8 Stadiums, 8 champions, 1 dream: Qatar 2022.”

“We are going to exhibit 25 works in total, consisting of shoes, soccer balls, as well as canvases and 3D structures,” said Cantero, 29.

Centered on the concept of No. 8, the book aims to highlight the history of the World Cup, which has only been won by eight countries. Brazil have won the most World Cup titles with five, followed by Italy and Germany with four, Uruguay, Argentina and France with two, and England and of Spain with one each.

Supported by the Embassy of Paraguay in Qatar, in collaboration with the Katara Cultural Village in the Qatari capital, the exhibition “inspired by football, the World Cup, different cultures” will open on November 18 in Doha, two days before the start of the tournament.

While the hand-painted balls will be the center of the show, the ornate football boots will be featured in a 3D display projecting them onto representations of the World Cup stadiums in Qatar.

They also project the image of the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the horse and the falcon, and other symbols related to the culture of the Middle East, Latin America and Paraguay.

Cantero’s talent came into the spotlight in 2018. A pair of football boots adorned with his art and detailed with a gallery of black and white images of Lionel Messi and his family were sent to the player.

After an image of the Argentina captain posing with the boots was shared widely on social media, Cantero’s career soared with requests for creations from professional players outside his native Paraguay, including the former striker Brazilian Ronaldinho. She was able to personally present the shoes to Ronaldinho depicting a kiss his mother gave him after he won the Ballon d’Or in 2005 as the best soccer player in the world.

“When I paint for players, what I try to do is to seek the humanization of the figure, because often the player is like an idol and many people forget that behind this player there is a nobody,” Cantero said.

Glimpses of Cantero’s unique take on his sports-inspired muse can be traced back to his youth. From her studio on the outskirts of Asunción, she remembers leafing through the pages of an encyclopedia at home, mesmerized by the works of famous painters. At school, she once decorated white sandals with bright patterns. In college, she repainted sandals as part of an assigned project, where students started their own small businesses. By word of mouth, friends who played football started asking him to paint their shoes. Eventually, she started designing for a local sports store and getting requests from professional athletes.

Just days before leaving for Qatar, Cantero’s inner gaze also leaps into the future.

“I would like to continue to grow, to expand to work with other regions and countries,” Canetro said, “to work on more US-centric projects, since the next World Cup will be in the United States. United, in Mexico, in Canada.”


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