Jessica Hilltout


Why do I love football so much? I don't know. I think it's simply because it's a hell of a lot of fun to play. Essentially I think that's it. Opening the paper today I find myself looking at photographs taken by Jessica Hilltout which remind me of that sense of fun. Now before we get on the 'white foreigner tours Africa with a camera photographing poor black people doing poor black people stuff' bandwagon of dismissiveness, let's just admit that there are a certain amount of poor people in Africa, and they can't afford footballs, let alone cameras to photograph themselves and be done with it. Yes I know she seems to have the money to wander around at will, yes I know her daddy payed for her book. So what? At least the photos are good and just think: there are some daddies out there who buy their daughters facelifts, flash cars and boobjobs.

Now then. Put simply, this is a fine series of photographs. Great portraits of (mostly young) people playing football on improvised pitches and with homemade balls. It's the balls that really steal the show here. Some of these are pretty elaborate labour intensive creations. If you've ever made a ball out of whatever you can find lying around (I have - and it was a bit crap) then you'll know what I mean!

“Nelito’s Ball, Nhambonda, Mozambique,”


So, I know it's not the same; my parents could afford to buy me a real football and some (on sale) decent boots for example, but these pictures remind me of when I was a kid and we would set up a pitch wherever using coats, bags, traffic cones, stones, whatever as goal posts and if we didn't have a ball, we'd use a can or some other kickable object. It's all we needed and we were entertained for hours. That's one thing this middle class white guy from Yorkshire has in common with a poor black kid in an African village. And that indeed makes it a game worth loving.

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