Around the world, soccer is known as el jogo bonito, the beautiful game. There are many reasons for this description: the finesse, the grace, the skill, and the elegance of the sport just a few reasons.
But there is something more beautiful than all of that in the game of soccer, or football as it is called around the rest of the world. And photographer Jessica Hiltout showed it in her book entitled Amen — Grassroots Football.
In this book, Hilltout has captured the true beauty of a sport that knows no boundaries. Not constricted by equipment or space or time, soccer is the most popular game in the world because it can be played anywhere in the world.
In a desert in Africa. On a street in Brazil. In a backyard in Crofton, Maryland.
The beauty of the game is that soccer, in its purest form, is a game for everyone. This is demonstrated worldwide in the vast array of players, balls, pitches (fields) and goals. Whether it be Manchester United and Barcelona playing each other at historic Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd of 70,000, or six kids in Africa, knocking around some rags tied together with sticks in the ground for goals.
What is so profound in Hilltout’s book, published in 2010 after the World Cup in Africa, is that it highlights the people that make soccer what it is. Those who love it unconditionally and who play to escape the reality that they find themselves in. The faces of Hilltout’s book are the faces of the true football culture. They prove through their smiles, through their tattered shoes, through their makeshift jerseys one thing.
The game is for everyone, anywhere.
Ian Brower writes in the prologue the following:
This book is not just about football, or indeed about football in Africa. It is a book that tries to capture the beauty and strength of the human spirit.
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 goalposts 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 is truly precious, it is a necessity, like bread and water.
And that my friends, that is a beautiful game.