While Americans down pitchers of beer and chicken wings in honor of Superbowl Sunday today, the world’s version of football continues on makeshift pitches across Africa, bringing everyday joy to kids who don’t have much but are astonishingly resourceful in their pursuit of the “beautiful game.”
Belgium-based photographer Jessica Hilltout reminded me of that this morning, thanks to a lovely photo essay on African football in this month’s National Geographic, which I finally got around to skimming. My timing was perfect. On a day that highlights the extreme end of U.S. consumerism and its link to professional sports, here are simple, moving portraits of the power of sport to transcend and uplift.
Though Hilltout’s project, titled “Amen,” includes photos of footballs, boots, goalposts, and the players themselves, it’s the footballs I’m drawn to. Each handmade ball, bound in twine, jury-rigged from socks, condoms, plastic scraps, you-name-it, has a story to tell and each a distinct personality. Hilltout has somehow made these comparable to portraits of people.
I’ll likely watch some of the game tonight–for the ads if nothing else–but what’s happening in the back lots of Maputo is probably a lot more interesting.