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the beautiful game


words/images: simon harsent


Before I picked up a camera, football was my only obsession and becoming a professional player my only dream (one that has, if I’m honest, never truly left me). It’s not just the game itself that fascinates and enthralls me, it’s the culture that surrounds it – the excitement of match day, the sense of belonging… it has come to define me in much the same way as my work. This project was born out of those twin obsessions.

I see football pitches in much the same way as I see a theatre. The action is played out, holding the audience rapt. There are moments of high drama, struggles for power, laughter and, sometimes, tears. There’s also a parallel to be drawn with places of worship, the spectacle of the players along with the raw, focused energy of the audience chanting and singing along allows one to enter a heightened, almost euphoric state at times. Football in this sense is utterly transformative – as all great art should be.

I wanted to take these buildings, these public spaces, and to present them as personal places, as everyday objects. For although monumental stages that seat thousands these are, for many they are structures more often viewed in passing – out of the corner of an eye or through a passing bus window on the way to the shops. They come to define their environment in a much more subtle way than one might suppose. Some pitches were the stages on which the greatest games were played by the greatest players; others are now left abandoned, the posts stand as only a vestige of what once was. Regardless, whether grand or grassroots, what they represent is all the same – the greatest game in the world.

For when the lights are dimmed and the crowds have disappeared, what remains still makes the heart of a fan beat faster.