In 2009 I set out on an adventure to capture the passion of football on the African continent at a grassroots level. I travelled more than 20,000 km across 10 countries equipped with my Hasselblad, 200 rolls of film, my logbook, mini digital camera and printer and a stock of deflated footballs.
Far from what happens on TV, far from the big stadiums, the glitz and the sponsors … I wanted to speak of the masses, the forgotten ones. To speak of the World Cups that are played every day by teams, friends, communities all over the continent where they are making balls, marking pitches, scoring goals and above all pleasing themselves.
The power of the ball and the beautiful game whether it be in professional clubs or small rural village is enormous. Here football is not just a game, it is the glue that binds village to village, team to team, tribe to tribe and people to people.
I just followed my gut and felt my way through villages in search of all those little details that speak of Africa’s great football passion. For me all the big stories are in the small details.
People were incredibly helpful and once I had gained their trust they gave me more than I could ever have imagined. When I got home my head and heart were full of life lessons and beautiful memories. This project was living inside me.
All the people who live and will remain in the shadow of the World Cup deserve to have a light shone on them, not just for their passion for the game but more so for the fundamental energy and enthusiasm that shines through the way they live. I wanted to embrace Africa and everything that makes it unique. To speak of the authenticity and sheer ingeniousness of a continent that manages to do so much with so little. To capture people with simple needs and huge hearts. To express football in its purest form.
Excerpt from Amen – Grassroots Football by Ian Brower & Jessica Hilltout
In Africa, football is not a religion. But it is everything a religion should be.
Every village in Africa has one open-air temple with goal posts at opposite ends and devoted followers in the middle.
Football breathes happiness into sun-baked days and rain-soaked evenings.
On a continent where not even the basics are taken for-granted, football is precious.
And like everything that’s truly precious, it’s a necessity, like bread and water.
Amen. So be it
Jessica Hilltout – All Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Jessica was born in Belgium, 1977. She’s been traveling ever since. Her parents exposed her to the world and this sparked her fascination with images. As a young woman, she attended Art College in Blackpool, England and later worked briefly (and unhappily) in commercial photography.
In 2002 she traveled through Central Asia and Africa photographing the seemingly unimportant – the apparently hidden – and finding beauty in both. Jessica’s work is proof positive that beauty can be found anywhere, especially in those unique imperfections that mark our individuality. Her work takes us far away from glossy advertising, luxury shops and soulless chain stores to a place where the superfluous and superficial are stripped away and where fundamental truths shine through.
Blog / Website: Jessica Hilltout
Facebook: The Amen Project