Football Stories

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Commission to produce a series of photos for publication and exhibition. Eleven photo stories¬†explore the game at all levels from junior teams, women’s football, Football Unites Racism Divides, a project for people with mental health issues, and the great Sunday league tradition.

With words by Dr David Forrest of the University of Sheffield (published below) and design by John Gelder of Eleven Design. The work was exhibited at Sheffield Winter Garden, September 2016, and the book can be ordered here.

‘Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest football club, the world’s oldest football derby and the oldest football trophy, many of the game’s laws were established in the city, and Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer, played for Sheffield United. It is a football city.

It’s 156 years since that first game between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. The English Premier League is probably the most potent symbol of globalisation, an ever-expanding enterprise swelled by billions of pounds of TV money, crossing borders and time zones, the national game is a commodity crafted for the world’s market. With every passing season the relationships between people and place, communities and clubs that are so central to the idea of English football are fragmenting.

Between April and July 2016 we set about exploring Sheffield, the home of football, to ask a question: was the game losing its soul? We wanted to talk to football people in this city, to listen to them, learn from them and tell their stories.

We think we’ve found an answer to our question, several answers in fact.

Football, it seems, is just as much about the pleasures and comforts of routine as it ever was: it’s about knowing that wherever you are in life there will always be a game to lose or find yourself within.

Football is always about families: families through the generations, friends that feel like family, teams of mates that are like brothers and sisters.

Football is about imagining a world outside of your own, going above and beyond to build and maintain something for the benefit of others and making sacrifices to get a game going.

Football can pick you up, but it can drop you, too – the thinnest of lines between hope and despair. That’s why it’s the most exciting, life affirming way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Football is a language. Like all languages, it is composed of many cultures and knowledges – all of them intersecting and building upon each other, as we learn through our differences.

Football is also a way of understanding place, and this book is as much about Sheffield as it is about football. These football stories are Sheffield stories, portraits of a city in changing times.’