futebol

But Why Photograph?

At summer camp, we watched the four full 16mm reels of a film, “Pele’: The Master and His Method“, in which the Master takes us through his training routine at Santos FC and, among many astonishing activities, feats of balance and defiance of gravity, he shows us how he learned as a small boy to juggle a grapefruit (because a ball then was too expensive).

Through the clatter and flicker of the old movie projector, I sat transfixed; my heart leapt. Precious secrets were being revealed. It felt like someone made this film just and only for me, that any level of skill could be possible — with the proper desire. And for us — if juggling the ball together in front of the dining hall — could make an hour seem five minutes, then football was all & everything in late August, when the cool evening and smell of cut grass hints at September.

I grew up in London and then New Jersey watching Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and other European journeymen, some two-pack-a-day smokers, playing for the NASL’s New York Cosmos on cheap astroturf inside Giants Stadium’s brutal concrete coliseum. After the Sex Pistols, but before my first kiss, I’d join the three- sometimes five-a-side game in the parking lot until the light would fade and the Zamboni machine made its very last clattering pass, gathering bottles and cans and fragments of the odd forgotten metal barbecue grill. The anonymous Zamboni driver always kindly left our precious little acre for last — for leaving was impossible.

Upon last touch, off in the distance the stream of headlights on the New Jersey Turnpike is now visible and thrums in dull echo. Retrieving the four t-shirt-goal-posts, we wipe the sweat. Silence. Ours is the only car left in the broad expanse of asphalt. You should see how the Secaucus swamp glows in the sunset beneath the awkward Newark skyline.

Photographing futebol demands as much concentration as playing; and being there makes equal joy. There is sculpture in the color-pageant’s collision of text, body, limb, head and ball — something both fleeting and enduring to be made.

Breakers 2:1 Sol (May 2, 2009)

MLS - Revs 1:0 Timbers (24 Mar 2012)