All you need is your feet, a ball, and reasonably flat ground. That’s enough to play football. If you want a little more sophistication, you might imagine the sketch of a goal frame—traces of paint on a wall, piles of stones as makeshift goal posts, a gateway to shoot the ball in. Further luxury is provided by the municipal football pitch, often poorly maintained, with its patches of dry grass, torn nets in rusty goal frames and lines partly rubbed out by passing time. Such are the simple arenas in which most football matches in the world are played.
I remember the matches I played with my friends as a boy on the esplanade in front of our building, just after finishing my homework—and even sometimes, with a little white lie to the parents, before I started doing it. One of our goal-posts was a lamp-post that gave out a clear metallic sound when the ball hit it. The other goal-post was made of a balled up coat—or T-shirt, depending on the weather. The cross-bar was left to our collective imagination, which led to animated discussions when the goal keeper didn’t manage to stop the ball : « too high ! », « no, no, the ball was in », « are you joking ? », « it was in, I tell you ! ». The height of the cross-bar fluctuated, and to be honest, so did most things : the number of players, the size of the pitch, the duration of the match, the rules of the game… But one thing never changed : in our minds, we were all football stars playing crucial matches, league championship or world cup finals, in front of thousands of fans. We each impersonated our favourite football player. Platini, Beckenbauer, Maradona, Cruyff…our nondescript suburban esplanade hosted the cream of the crop.
During my photo reports all over the world, I have met kids and young adults transcending reality through football. These days they wear the shirts of Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo or Rooney, but even when they can’t afford the shirts, they become their idols, body and soul. And who cares if the football pitches are rocky or slanted, who cares if these anonymous football stars play on beaches, in hallways, streets or fields ? In their dreams they are in Maracana, the Stade de France, Wembley, and the cheering of the crowds powers their brilliant feet.
Bruno Mazodier born in 1965, works and lives in Paris.
At 8 years old, Bruno Mazodier has been the witness of a strange phenomena: the morning light, coming through the keyhole, projected some days a reversed image on the wall of his room of the neighboring building’s. This unexpected camera oscura is undoubtedly at the inception of his vocation to becoming a photographer.